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Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 Sep;17(9):1076-84. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntu242. Epub 2014 Nov 10.

Prevalence and Correlates of Social Smoking in Young Adults: Comparisons of Behavioral and Self-Identified Definitions.

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Department of Medicine, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA;
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, CA



Social smoking is an increasingly common pattern among emerging adults. Although distinct patterns have emerged between social smokers and non-social smokers, there is discrepancy about how to define the construct, with inconsistencies between self-identified social smoking and behavioral social smoking. We report prevalence and correlates of young adult smokers who self-identify and behave as social smokers (SELF + BEH), self-identified non-behavioral social smokers (SELF-ONLY), and non-social smokers (NON-SOCIAL).


Young adults age 18-25 years who have smoked at least 1 cigarette in the past 30 days (N = 1,811) were recruited through Facebook for a national anonymous, online survey of tobacco and other substance use. Three social smoking items were used to categorize respondents into 1 of 3 smoking groups. Groups were examined for prevalence and differences on demographics, substance use, motivation to quit smoking and thoughts about tobacco abstinence.


SELF-ONLY (46%) was the largest group, followed by SELF + BEH (27%) and NON-SOCIAL (27%). SELF + BEH smoke less frequently, smoke fewer cigarettes per day, are less addicted to cigarettes, have a higher desire to quit, and perceive a lower quitting difficulty compared with SELF-ONLY. SELF + BEH and SELF-ONLY were more likely to be male, be marijuana users, and be addicted to marijuana than NON-SOCIAL. SELF + BEH exhibited a lower frequency of smoking, less cigarettes per day, were less addicted, and had more days co-using alcohol and cigarettes than NON-SOCIAL.


Identifying social smokers based on self-identification in addition to behavioral components appears to be important for designing smoking cessation interventions for emerging adults.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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