Age of initiation, smoking patterns, and risk in a population of working adults


Background. Early age of initiation is a significant risk factor for long-term dependent smoking and may also relate to other unhealthy behaviors and increased likelihood of illness, independent of duration of smoking. Methods. The current study assessed age of initiation in relation to cigarette dependence, interest in quitting, social environment pertaining to smoking, behavioral risk factors, and current health problems. Subjects were 2120 current daily smokers in 24 worksites in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, metropolitan area. Results. Findings were surprisingly consistent with early age of initiation predicting more dependent smoking, less interest and confidence in ability to quit, poorer diet, less use of seat belts, more illness and hospitalization, and greater likelihood of smoking among partner/spouse, friends, and co-workers. Conclusions. The overall strength of the findings was unexpected. Early initiation of regular smoking predicted a significant constellation of risk factors throughout adulthood. Interventions that significantly delay smoking onset, even in the absence of permanent prevention, could have important public health implications.

Publication Title

Preventive Medicine