Objectives: To compare prevalence estimates and assess issues related to the measurement of adult cigarette smoking in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Methods: 2008 data on current cigarette smoking and current daily cigarette smoking among adults ≥18 years were compared. The standard NHIS current smoking definition, which screens for lifetime smoking ≥100 cigarettes, was used. For NSDUH, both the standard current smoking definition, which does not screen, and a modified definition applying the NHIS current smoking definition (i.e., with screen) were used.
Results: NSDUH consistently yielded higher current cigarette smoking estimates than NHIS and lower daily smoking estimates. However, with use of the modified NSDUH current smoking definition, a notable number of subpopulation estimates became comparable between surveys. Younger adults and racial/ethnic minorities were most impacted by the lifetime smoking screen, with Hispanics being the most sensitive to differences in smoking variable definitions among all subgroups.
Conclusions: Differences in current cigarette smoking definitions appear to have a greater impact on smoking estimates in some sub-populations than others. Survey mode differences may also limit intersurvey comparisons and trend analyses. Investigators are cautioned to use data most appropriate for their specific research questions.