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Measurement of multiple nicotine dependence domains among cigarette, non-cigarette and poly-tobacco users: Insights from item response theory


Background: Nicotine dependence (ND) is a key construct that organizes physiological and behavioral symptoms associated with persistent nicotine intake. Measurement of ND has focused primarily on cigarette smokers. Thus, validation of brief instruments that apply to a broad spectrum of tobacco product users is needed. Methods: We examined multiple domains of ND in a longitudinal national study of the United States population, the United States National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). We used methods based in item response theory to identify and validate increasingly brief measures of ND that included symptoms to assess ND similarly among cigarette, cigar, smokeless, and poly tobacco users. Results: Confirmatory factor analytic models supported a single, primary dimension underlying symptoms of ND across tobacco use groups. Differential Item Functioning (DIF) analysis generated little support for systematic differences in response to symptoms of ND across tobacco use groups. We established significant concurrent and predictive validity of brief 3- and 5-symptom indices for measuring ND. Conclusions: Measuring ND across tobacco use groups with a common set of symptoms facilitates evaluation of tobacco use in an evolving marketplace of tobacco and nicotine products.

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