Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Siahpush’s main research interest is in tobacco control—restricting the growth of tobacco use and thereby reducing the associated mortality and morbidity. Dr. Siahpush’s research uses data from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, and China. His research has found an association between social disadvantage (e.g., low level of education or income) and smoking. In particular, his research shows that socially disadvantaged individuals are more likely to smoke and less likely to quit, and individuals who perceive themselves to be less well off than others are more likely to smoke. A person’s income relative to others, and not just his/her absolute level of income, is an important determinant of smoking.
Dr. Siahpush’s research has also identified the mechanism of the association between social disadvantage and smoking. Social disadvantage is correlated with lower awareness that smoking causes disease and that cigarette smoke contains poisonous compounds. Furthermore, socially disadvantaged smokers are more addicted to nicotine, less likely to have an intention to quit, and less likely to have self-efficacy to quit.
Dr. Siahpush has also considered the relationship between financial stress and smoking, and has found that smokers with financial stress are caught in a vicious cycle. Compared to others, they are less likely to quit, which means they are more likely to experience even more financial stress, which in turn makes it even harder to quit.
Dr. Siahpush has investigated the effect of population-level interventions on smoking behavior and the effect of smoke-free policies on revenues in the hospitality industry. His research shows that the negative effect of cigarette price increases on smoking prevalence is larger in disadvantaged groups. The research also shows that smoke-free laws do not impact revenues in restaurants or bars, but do have a negative effect on revenues in gambling establishments.
Dr. Siahpush’s work has had significant impact on policy and practice. For example, his findings about how smoking exacerbates social deprivation have been used by the Australian Cancer Council to partner with the Council of Social Services and develop an initiative (“Lifting the Burden: Tobacco Control and Social Equity Strategy”) to reduce smoking among the poor. He spoke at the launch of this initiative. He also provided input in the development of the Australian national tobacco control policy described in “The Australian National Tobacco Strategy: The Strategy” and “The Australian National Tobacco Strategy, Meeting the Challenge: Addressing Inequality.”
Mohammad Siahpush, PhD, is a professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.