Studies show that smoking initiation typically occurs at age 15 or 16 and over a two- or three-year period gradually increases to daily smoking. Daily smokers continue to escalate their use of cigarettes over the next several years as they develop into chronic, heavily dependent smokers.
This study looked at the daily smoking habits of 912 college students at Purdue University during their freshman year to understand some of the factors that influence trajectories of smoking behavior and tobacco dependence. Students were assessed weekly over the course of the academic year using a web-based survey and provided monthly saliva samples for cotinine analysis. Rates of alcohol and marijuana use were also examined.
Results revealed several patterns of substance use. Heightened use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana were observed during the earliest weeks of school, followed by steady rates of decline over the next several weeks, suggesting that many college freshmen initially experiment with substance use upon arriving on campus, but do not continue to use. Results also found a weekly pattern of smoking, with most cigarettes smoked on Fridays and Saturdays. This pattern was relative consistent across the academic year, with the exception of specific holidays when rates of use increased (i.e., Halloween and New Years Eve), and specific weeks when rates of use decreased (i.e., finals week, winter and spring break). Patterns of smoking and alcohol use were similar, especially for students with higher levels of use.
Among freshmen who had smoked very little prior to beginning college, findings revealed that their initial early-use episodes of smoking during college occurred within a social/party setting and that over 90% occurred when the person was with other people who were smoking. In addition, the majority (65%) of the first recorded early use of cigarettes occurred while the participant was drinking alcohol.
Title of Paper: "Smoking in College Freshmen: University Project of the Tobacco Etiology Research Network (UpTERN)." Lead author: Stephen T. Tiffany, University of Utah.
Health Matrix, Inc., December 04, 2007