Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Characteristics of adolescent intermittent and daily smokers.

  • Author(s): Rubinstein, Mark L
  • Rait, Michelle A
  • Sen, Saunak
  • Shiffman, Saul
  • et al.


Intermittent smoking is common among adolescent smokers, but little is known about adolescent intermittent smokers (ITS). This study describes a cohort of adolescent ITS and compares them to adolescent daily smokers (DS) for the purpose of providing a more detailed characterization of adolescent ITS, specifically patterns of smoking, level of self-reported addiction, and experience with cessation


Participants were 124 ITS and 55 DS. ITS were defined as smoking at least monthly but <30 days per month; and DS as smoking daily. Participants completed demographic, smoking and addiction surveys including the HONC and mFTQ.


ITS started smoking at an older age, smoked fewer cigarettes per day and scored significantly lower on addiction scales, but had similar difficulty to DS in quitting smoking with similar numbers of reported quit attempts. These differences remained after adjusting for years of smoking. ITS were more likely to smoke in social situations, while DS were more likely to smoke when angry. Both groups were equally likely to report smoking when drinking alcohol.


We documented significant differences in smoking related behaviors between adolescent ITS and DS. Importantly, we also found that, despite low level infrequent smoking, ITS reported difficulty in quitting smoking. Given the risks from light and intermittent smoking, it is essential that we develop a greater understanding of adolescent ITS, including their difficulty in quitting and the contextual factors influencing their smoking, so that we may develop new targeted interventions.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View