Agent-based modeling in tobacco regulatory science: exploring ‘what if ’ in waterpipe smoking


Objectives: Waterpipe tobacco smoking (WTS) is an emerging public health crisis, particularly among youth and young adults. Different from the use of other tobacco products and e-cigarettes, WTS tends to be a social activity occurring among friends or persons associated with social networks. In this paper, we review a potential strategy for WTS-related research. Methods: As a bottom-up computational model, agent-based modeling (ABM) can simulate the actions and interactions of agents, as well as the dynamic interactions between agents and their environments, to gain an understanding of the functioning of a system. ABM is particularly useful for incorporating the influence of social networks in WTS, and capturing people’s space-time activity and the spatial distribution of WTS venues. Results: Comprehensive knowledge of WTSrelated behaviors at the individual level is needed to take advantage of ABM and use it to examine policies such as the interaction between WTS and cigarette smoking and the effect of flavors used in waterpipe tobacco. Longitudinal and WTS-specific surveys and laboratory experiments are particularly helpful to understand WTS basic mechanisms and elicit individual preferences, respectively. Conclusions: We argue that the uniqueness of WTS makes ABM a promising tool to be used in WTS-related research, as well as understanding use of other tobacco products.

Publication Title

Tobacco Regulatory Science