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BMC Med Res Methodol. 2011 Nov 21;11:153. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-11-153.

Assessing smoking status in disadvantaged populations: is computer administered self report an accurate and acceptable measure?

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Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour, University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute, Room 230A, Level 2, David Maddison Building, Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia.



Self report of smoking status is potentially unreliable in certain situations and in high-risk populations. This study aimed to determine the accuracy and acceptability of computer administered self-report of smoking status among a low socioeconomic (SES) population.


Clients attending a community service organisation for welfare support were invited to complete a cross-sectional touch screen computer health survey. Following survey completion, participants were invited to provide a breath sample to measure exposure to tobacco smoke in expired air. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value were calculated.


Three hundred and eighty three participants completed the health survey, and 330 (86%) provided a breath sample. Of participants included in the validation analysis, 59% reported being a daily or occasional smoker. Sensitivity was 94.4% and specificity 92.8%. The positive and negative predictive values were 94.9% and 92.0% respectively. The majority of participants reported that the touch screen survey was both enjoyable (79%) and easy (88%) to complete.


Computer administered self report is both acceptable and accurate as a method of assessing smoking status among low SES smokers in a community setting. Routine collection of health information using touch-screen computer has the potential to identify smokers and increase provision of support and referral in the community setting.

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