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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health

Building capacity for a tobacco-free world

July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - 12:00 PM

Are they who we say they are?: Defining Cigarette Smoking Status in Emerging Adults

Jillian B. Giesler, MSc, Health Studies & Gerontology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave. West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada

Background: It is unclear whether the standard adult measure of smoking status properly describes smoking behaviour in emerging adults (aged 18-24).

Objective: To explore the relation between smoking status as determined by the standard adult behavioural measure (minimum 100 lifetime and use in past 30-days) and self-perceived smoking status by conducting a comparison of students classified according to these two measures.

Methods: Preliminary survey data was collected from a random sample of undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo in January, 2004 (N= 327). Data was analyzed using descriptive and non-parametric statistics (percentages, Cohen's kappa and chi-square). Analyses were replicated with data from a representative sample of Ontario post-secondary students (N=10,000) collected from November to December, 2005.

Results: Results from the preliminary data set suggest that an estimated 17.55% of the students were current smokers according to the standard adult measure. Among these current smokers, agreement between the two measures of smoking status was weak (kappa= 0.2045, CI95= 0.0156-0.3933). Many students classified as ‘occasional smokers' by the standard adult measure, actually perceived themselves as ‘nonsmokers who smoke sometimes,' instead of the expected ‘light smoker'. Results from the larger data set will be available in February, 2006.

Conclusion: The accepted adult behavioural measure of smoking status may be insufficient to inform tobacco control efforts for the emerging adult population as it results in different proportions of non-daily smokers when compared against students' self-perceived smoking status. It is time to rethink how we measure and assess smoking status for this unique age group.