Original Article

International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 335-343

First online:

Smoking behavior of Mexicans: patterns by birth-cohort, gender, and education

  • Rebekka ChristopoulouAffiliated withDepartment of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University Email author 
  • , Dean R. LillardAffiliated withDepartment of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell UniversityDIW
  • , Josè R. Balmori de la MiyarAffiliated withDepartment of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University

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Little is known about historical smoking patterns in Mexico. Policy makers must rely on imprecise predictions of human or fiscal burdens from smoking-related diseases. In this paper we document intergenerational patterns of smoking, project them for future cohorts, and discuss those patterns in the context of Mexico’s impressive economic growth.


We use retrospectively collected information to generate life-course smoking prevalence rates of five birth-cohorts, by gender and education. With dynamic panel data methods, we regress smoking rates on indicators of economic development.


Smoking is most prevalent among men and the highly educated. Smoking rates peaked in the 1980s and have since decreased, slowly on average, and fastest among the highly educated. Development significantly contributed to this decline; a 1 % increase in development is associated with an average decline in smoking prevalence of 0.02 and 0.07 percentage points for women and men, respectively.


Mexico’s development may have triggered forces that decrease smoking, such as the spread of health information. Although smoking rates are falling, projections suggest that they will be persistently high for several future generations.


Smoking prevalence Economic development Birth-cohort Gender Education Mexico