Questionnaire assessment of lifetime and recent exposure to environmental tobacco smoke

Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Aug;130(2):338-47. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a115340.


In a sample of 149 adult nonsmokers recruited in New Mexico in 1986, the authors assessed the reliability of questionnaire responses on lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke in the home. They also compared urinary cotinine levels with questionnaire reports of environmental tobacco smoke exposure during the previous 24 hours. The agreement of responses obtained on two occasions within six months was high for parental smoking during childhood: 94% for the mother and 93% for the father. For the amounts smoked by the mother and the father during the subject's childhood, the agreement between the two interviews was moderate: 52% and 39%, respectively. For the number of hours per day that each parent smoked in the home during the subject's childhood, the Spearman correlation coefficients also indicated only moderate reliability (r = 0.18 for maternal smoking and r = 0.54 for paternal smoking). For each set of interviews, responses concerning recent tobacco smoke exposure and urinary cotinine levels were correlated to only a modest degree. The authors conclude that adults can reliably report whether household members smoked during their childhood, but information on quantitative aspects of smoking is reported less reliably.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cotinine / urine
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution
  • Cotinine