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Nicotine Tob Res. 2003 Oct;5(5):755-9.

Nondaily smokers: a descriptive analysis.

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  • 1Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta GA 30333, USA.


To describe the characteristics of persons in the United States who smoke but do not smoke daily, we analyzed 1997-1998 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The NHIS collects self-reported information on cigarette smoking from a representative sample of the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 18 years or older through in-home surveys. Nondaily smokers were defined as persons who had ever smoked 100 cigarettes, smoked "some days," and smoked on fewer than 30 of the past 30 days. In 1997-1998, an estimated 16.0% of current smokers were nondaily smokers. Being a nondaily smoker was more common among smokers aged 18-24 years (19.9%) than among those aged 45-64 years (12.0%), more common among Black and Hispanic smokers (19.2% and 29.9%, respectively) than among White smokers (13.9%), and more common among smokers with at least a college education (28.2%) than among those with 9-11, 12, or 13-15 years of education (10.0%, 12.5%, or 15.9%, respectively). Mean cigarettes smoked per day for those who had smoked on 1-9, 10-19, and 20-29 of the past 30 days equaled 3.9, 5.3, and 7.0, respectively, compared with 19.0 for daily smokers. Nondaily smokers were more likely than daily smokers to have a quit attempt in the past year (55.2% vs. 40.0%). In conclusion, rates of nondaily smoking vary substantially by age, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment. Differences by education suggest that this behavior may be influenced by knowledge and social norms. Nondaily smoking may be a useful intermediate outcome for assessing changes in smoking prevalence. Cessation interventions need to be tailored for nondaily smokers, who may differ from daily smokers in important ways.

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