Objectives: Previous research has suggested that early smoking initiation predicts longer duration of smoking, heavier daily consumption, and increased chances of nicotine dependence. This report set out to estimate the relationship between smoking cessation and age of initiation, as well as nicotine dependence, sex, race, and education.
Methods: A sample of 1007 young adults was randomly selected from a large health maintenance organization in southeast Michigan. Hazard ratios of quitting associated with age at smoking initiation were estimated among 414 persons who smoked daily for 1 month or more.
Results: With potential confounders controlled for, the likelihood of cessation was significantly higher in smokers who initiated smoking after age 13. The hazard ratio for quitting associated with smoking initiation at ages 14 to 16 was 1.6 and with initiation at or after age 17 was 2.0, compared with initiation at or before 13 years of age. Factors that decreased the likelihood of cessation were nicotine dependence and low education.
Conclusions: Public policy to discourage early smoking, if it succeeds in delaying the initiation of smoking, might contribute to the reduction of smoking-related mortality and morbidity by increasing the potential for quitting.