Are adolescent smokers dependent on nicotine? A review of the evidence

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2000 May 1;59 Suppl 1:S83-95. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(99)00166-0.


This paper reviews the empirical literature on adolescent nicotine dependence, withdrawal, and their associated features. Data documenting nicotine dependence scores, diagnoses, and individual features among adolescents are reviewed in detail and compared to observations based on adult smokers. These data are derived from a broad variety of sources, including national surveys, school-based surveys, and smoking cessation studies. Overall, results indicate that one to three out of five adolescent smokers is dependent on nicotine, with some adolescent groups clearly at higher risk for dependence (those who are incarcerated, in vocational schools, daily smokers, and/or heavy smokers). Across studies, data consistently indicate that a large majority (two-thirds or more) of adolescent smokers report experiencing withdrawal symptoms during attempts to quit or reduce their smoking. Craving or strong desire to smoke was the most commonly reported withdrawal symptom in every study reviewed. Although analyses of concurrent validity generally support the dependence and withdrawal findings among adolescents, data on the predictive validity of measures used are needed. Moreover, studies of adolescent tobacco withdrawal rely almost exclusively on retrospective self-report data. Recommendations for enhancing methodology and advancing our understanding of adolescent nicotine dependence and withdrawal are offered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cotinine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Tobacco / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology


  • Cotinine