Introduction: Smoker identity, or the strength of beliefs about oneself as a smoker, is a robust marker of smoking behavior. However, many nondaily smokers do not identify as smokers, underestimating their risk for tobacco-related disease and resulting in missed intervention opportunities. Assessing underlying beliefs about characteristics used to classify smokers may help explain the discrepancy between smoking behavior and smoker identity. This study examines the factor structure, reliability, and validity of the Classifying a Smoker scale among a racially diverse sample of adult smokers.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was administered through an online panel survey service to 2,376 current smokers who were at least 25 years of age. The sample was stratified to obtain equal numbers of 3 racial/ethnic groups (African American, Latino, and White) across smoking level (nondaily and daily smoking).
Results: The Classifying a Smoker scale displayed a single factor structure and excellent internal consistency (α = .91). Classifying a Smoker scores significantly increased at each level of smoking, F(3,2375) = 23.68, p < .0001. Those with higher scores had a stronger smoker identity, stronger dependence on cigarettes, greater health risk perceptions, more smoking friends, and were more likely to carry cigarettes. Classifying a Smoker scores explained unique variance in smoking variables above and beyond that explained by smoker identity.
Conclusions: The present study supports the use of the Classifying a Smoker scale among diverse, experienced smokers. Stronger endorsement of characteristics used to classify a smoker (i.e., stricter criteria) was positively associated with heavier smoking and related characteristics. Prospective studies are needed to inform prevention and treatment efforts.