Progression to established patterns of cigarette smoking among young adults

Elizabeth Hair, Morgane Bennett, Valerie Williams, Amanda Johnson, Jessica Rath, Jennifer Cantrell, Andrea Villanti, Craig Enders, Donna Vallone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background As tobacco control policies have been implemented across the U.S. over the past decade, patterns of smoking cigarettes have significantly changed, particularly among young adults. For many users, the typical daily use pattern of smoking several packs of cigarettes per day has been supplanted by a variety of use patterns, often referred to as light, intermittent, and occasional smoking. Methods The aim of this study was to examine progression to established smoking patterns among a nationally representative, longitudinal sample of young adults (n = 9791). Using repeated measures latent class techniques (RMLCA), we modeled the distribution of cigarette smoking intensity over time and latent class categories. Results Findings demonstrate that young adults fall into three discrete classes that reflect probabilities for never to low use, daily use, and variable cigarette use for progression to established use of cigarettes: 79.3% fall into the class of “never or ever users” of cigarettes (no current use of cigarettes), 11.3% fall into the class of “rapid escalators” or daily users of cigarettes, and 9.4% fall into the “dabbler” class. Smoking patterns were found to be stable by the age of 21. Conclusions Intervening prior to age 21 has the potential to disrupt progression to established smoking and reduce the long-term health consequences of smoking in this age group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Cigarettes
  • Tobacco
  • Use patterns
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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