Objectives: Guided by the life-course perspective, we examined whether there were subgroups with different likelihood curves of smoking onset associated with specific developmental periods.
Methods: Using 12 waves of panel data from 4088 participants in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, we detected subgroups with distinctive risk patterns by employing developmental trajectory modeling analysis.
Results: From birth to age 29 years, 72% of female and 74% of US males initiated smoking. We detected 4 exclusive groups with distinctive risk patterns for both genders: the Pre-Teen Risk Group initiated smoking by age 12 years, the Teenage Risk Group initiated smoking by age 18 years, the Young Adult Risk Group initiated smoking by age 25 years, and the Low Risk Group experienced little or no risk over time. Groups differed on several etiological and outcome variables.
Conclusions: The process of smoking initiation from birth to young adulthood is nonhomogeneous, with distinct subgroups whose risk of smoking onset is linked to specific stages in the life course.