Estimates of population smoking prevalence: self-vs proxy reports of smoking status

Am J Public Health. 1994 Oct;84(10):1576-9. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.10.1576.


Objectives: In the face of rising costs of surveillance systems, it is time to reexamine the feasibility of including proxy respondents in surveys designed to provide population estimates of smoking prevalence.

Methods: Data are from the California. Tobacco Surveys, which are random-digit dialed telephone surveys. One adult provided demographic information and smoking status for all household residents. Additionally, some adults were selected for in-depth interviews that also included smoking status questions. We matched information from proxy respondents and self-respondents and evaluated smoking status discrepancies between them relative to demographic and other factors (n = 2930 matched pairs) in 1992. We address the potential bias these discrepancies might introduce into the population estimate of smoking prevalence.

Results: Overall, the discrepancy between proxy report and self-report was 4.3%, and it increased particularly when the self-respondent reported nondaily smoking or recent quitting. Discrepancies acted in both directions, and the net bias was that the screener survey overestimated smoking prevalence by 0.1% in 1992 (0.3% in 1990).

Conclusions: Smoking status questions can be added to ongoing surveys such as the census or labor force surveys; one adult could provide smoking status for all household members.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • California / epidemiology
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Self Disclosure
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking Cessation