To address the need for a better understanding of the perspective of Canadian youths on tobacco dependence, a qualitative study using ethnographic techniques was conducted to describe the patterns of language that they use to describe tobacco dependence and the meaning that it has for them. The study was comprised of three inter-related phases: (1) A secondary analysis of 47 individual unstructured interviews with adolescents was completed to identify the words and phrases they use to explain tobacco dependence; (2) contrast and structural questions focusing on tobacco dependence were developed and used in open-ended interviews with 13 adolescents. Data analysis of the transcribed interviews resulted in a set of 60 key phrases that represented the primary ways youths describe the need to smoke; and (3) interviews were conducted with 14 adolescents that involved an open card sort using the set of 60 key phrases. All card sorts and transcribed interview data were analyzed to identify domains representing types of tobacco dependence and sub-types within each domain. From their descriptions about the need to smoke, five aspects of tobacco dependence were identified: social, pleasurable, empowering, emotional, and full-fledged. This study provides a step in elucidating the construct of tobacco dependence among the young. Further research is required to extend this understanding and to develop appropriate measures.