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Public Health. 2007 Sep;121(9):663-72. Epub 2007 Jun 4.

Smoking initiation and nicotine dependence symptoms in Ukraine: findings from the Ukraine World Mental Health survey.

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Department of Psychiatry, Stony Brook University, NY 11794-8790, USA.



Cigarette smoking is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in former Soviet countries. This study examined the personal, familial and psychiatric risk factors for smoking initiation and development of nicotine dependence symptoms in Ukraine.


Cross-sectional survey.


Smoking history and dependence symptoms were ascertained from N=1711 adults in Ukraine as part of a national mental health survey conducted in 2002. Separate analyses were conducted for men and women.


The prevalence of lifetime regular smoking was 80.5% in men and 18.7% in women, with median ages at initiation among smokers of 17 and 18, respectively. Furthermore, 61.2% of men and 11.9% of women were current smokers; among the subgroup of lifetime smokers, 75.9% of men and 63.1% of women currently smoked. The youngest female cohort (born 1965-1984) was 26 times more likely to start smoking than the oldest. Smoking initiation was also linked to childhood externalizing behaviors and antecedent use of alcohol in both genders, as well as marital status and personal alcohol abuse in men, and childhood urbanicity and birth cohort in women. Dependence symptoms developed in 61.7% of male and 47.1% of female smokers. The rate increased sharply in the first four years after smoking initiation. Dependence symptoms were related to birth cohort and alcohol abuse in both genders, as well as growing up in a suburb or town and childhood externalizing behaviors in men, and parental antisocial behavior in women.


Increased smoking in young women heralds a rising epidemic in Ukraine and underscores the need for primary prevention programs, especially in urban areas. Our findings support the importance of childhood and alcohol-related risk factors, especially in women, while pre-existing depression and anxiety disorders were only weakly associated with starting to smoke or developing dependence symptoms.

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