Featured Article: Which Young Smokers Will End Up Addicted?

October 12, 2015:
Stephanie LanzaSV

Early milestones in the development of smoking, such as first cigarette, experimental smoking, and onset of regular smoking, are key risk factors for later nicotine dependence (Dierker et al., 2008). The risk associated with age of smoking initiation has been studied widely, but less research has examined the link between the age of onset of regular smoking and later dependence. In a new article to appear in Addictive Behaviors, Methodology Center Investigators Stephanie Lanza and Sara Vasilenko apply time varying effect modeling (TVEM) to explore the link between age of onset of regular smoking and adult nicotine dependence.

This brief article is the first to apply TVEM to explore the complex association between the age of onset of a risky behavior and later diagnosis.

Using a sample of 15,748 adults from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, the authors applied TVEM to model nicotine dependence in adulthood as a flexible function of age of first regular smoking. They found that adult nicotine dependence is highest for people who began to smoke regularly around age 10. The risk for adult dependence decreased steadily to about half for people who initiated at age 18. The association between age of onset of regular smoking and adult dependence was stronger for females. People who initiated regular smoking in adulthood had lower rates of nicotine dependence than those who initiated at any time during adolescence.

Open the article. (Journal access required)


Lanza, S. T., & Vasilenko, S. A. (2015). New methods shed light on age of onset as a risk factor for nicotine dependence. Addictive Behaviors50, 161-164.

Dierker L., He J., Kalaydjian A., Swendsen J., Degenhardt L., Glantz, M., et al. (2008). The importance of timing of transitions for risk of regular smoking and nicotine dependence. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 36, 87-92.

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