Smoke or fog? The usefulness of retrospectively reported information about smoking

Addiction. 2003 Sep;98(9):1307-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.2003.00445.x.


Aims: To investigate the reliability and validity of retrospectively reported information on smoking.

Design: Nationally representative retrospective data from longitudinal surveys and contemporaneous data from repeated cross-sectional surveys were used.

Participants: Adult respondents to three of the four samples of the National Longitudinal Surveys Original Cohort 1966-68; the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979; and various waves of the US National Health Interview Survey.

Measurements: Reliability was investigated by calculating kappa statistics for repeated measures of ever-smoking and annual-smoking status. Validity was investigated by comparing smoking prevalence rates generated by retrospective data with contemporaneously measured rates.

Findings: Kappa statistics indicated the repeated measures of ever-smoking status show substantial agreement; repeated measures of annual-smoking status show moderate agreement. Retrospective reports on smoking behavior produced prevalence rates that match reasonably well with those from contemporaneous reports of smoking behavior.

Conclusions: Retrospective data on smoking can be an important resource for tobacco addiction research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Smoking / epidemiology*