Validation of the Wave 1 and Wave 2 Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study Indicators of Tobacco Dependence Using Biomarkers of Nicotine Exposure Across Tobacco Products

Nicotine Tob Res. 2022 Jan 1;24(1):10-19. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntab162.


Introduction: This study examined the predictive relationships between biomarkers of nicotine exposure and 16-item self-reported level of tobacco dependence (TD) and subsequent tobacco use outcomes.

Aims and methods: The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study surveyed adult current established tobacco users who provided urine biospecimens at Wave 1 (September 2013-December 2014) and completed the Wave 2 (October 2014-October 2015) interview (n = 6872). Mutually exclusive user groups at Wave 1 included: Cigarette Only, E-cigarette Only, Cigar Only, Hookah Only, Smokeless Tobacco Only, Cigarette Plus E-cigarette, multiple tobacco product users who smoked cigarettes, and multiple tobacco product users who did not smoke cigarettes. Total Nicotine Equivalents (TNE-2) and TD were measured at Wave 1. Approximate one-year outcomes included frequency/quantity used, quitting, and adding/switching to different tobacco products.

Results: For Cigarette Only smokers and multiple tobacco product users who smoked cigarettes, higher TD and TNE-2 were associated with: a tendency to smoke more, smoking more frequently over time, decreased likelihood of switching away from cigarettes, and decreased probability of quitting after one year. For other product user groups, Wave 1 TD and/or TNE-2 were less consistently related to changes in quantity and frequency of product use, or for adding or switching products, but higher TNE-2 was more consistently predictive of decreased probability of quitting.

Conclusions: Self-reported TD and nicotine exposure assess common and independent aspects of dependence in relation to tobacco use behaviors for cigarette smokers. For other product user groups, nicotine exposure is a more consistent predictor of quitting than self-reported TD.

Implications: This study suggests that smoking cigarettes leads to the most coherent pattern of associations consistent with a syndrome of TD. Because cigarettes continue to be prevalent and harmful, efforts to decrease their use may be accelerated via conventional means (eg, smoking cessation interventions and treatments), but also perhaps by decreasing their dependence potential. The implications for noncombustible tobacco products are less clear as the stability of tobacco use patterns that include products such as e-cigarettes continue to evolve. TD, nicotine exposure measures, and consumption could be used in studies that attempt to understand and predict product-specific tobacco use behavioral outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Tobacco
  • Tobacco Products*
  • Tobacco Use / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder* / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Nicotine