Characteristics of adolescent intermittent and daily smokers

Addict Behav. 2014 Sep;39(9):1337-41. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.04.021. Epub 2014 May 5.


Introduction: Intermittent smoking is common among adolescent smokers, but little is known about adolescent intermittent smokers (ITS). This study describes a cohort of adolescent ITS and compares them to adolescent daily smokers (DS) for the purpose of providing a more detailed characterization of adolescent ITS, specifically patterns of smoking, level of self-reported addiction, and experience with cessation

Methods: Participants were 124 ITS and 55 DS. ITS were defined as smoking at least monthly but <30 days per month; and DS as smoking daily. Participants completed demographic, smoking and addiction surveys including the HONC and mFTQ.

Results: ITS started smoking at an older age, smoked fewer cigarettes per day and scored significantly lower on addiction scales, but had similar difficulty to DS in quitting smoking with similar numbers of reported quit attempts. These differences remained after adjusting for years of smoking. ITS were more likely to smoke in social situations, while DS were more likely to smoke when angry. Both groups were equally likely to report smoking when drinking alcohol.

Conclusions: We documented significant differences in smoking related behaviors between adolescent ITS and DS. Importantly, we also found that, despite low level infrequent smoking, ITS reported difficulty in quitting smoking. Given the risks from light and intermittent smoking, it is essential that we develop a greater understanding of adolescent ITS, including their difficulty in quitting and the contextual factors influencing their smoking, so that we may develop new targeted interventions.

Keywords: Adolescent nicotine addiction; Adolescent smoking; Daily smokers; Intermittent smokers; Light smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Anger / physiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*