Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 123–140 | Cite as

Measurement of adolescent smoking behavior: Rationale and methods

  • Terry F. Pechacek
  • David M. Murray
  • Russell V. Luepker
  • Maurice B. Mittelmark
  • C. Anderson Johnson
  • James M. Shutz


The initiation of cigarette smoking among adolescents is a health problem which has been the subject of discussion and study for many years. The evaluation of strategies to deter the adoption of smoking has long been hampered by the problems of measuring adolescent smoking behavior. Recently, interest has increased in biochemical measures of smoking under the assumption that they are more objective measures. The validity of this assumption is addressed for several ages of adolescents. This paper presents saliva thiocyanate levels, expired air carbon monoxide levels, and smoking self-reports from a sample of 2200 junior and senior highschool students. Interrelationships among the biochemical and behavioral measures are strong among the total population, ranging from 0.48 to 0.95 (Pearson r)but are much weaker at the younger age levels. Normative levels of carbon monoxide and saliva thiocyanate are presented by age (11–13, 14–15, and 16–17 years old). These data indicate that habitual smoking appears to develop in a gradual fashion and that several years may pass between initial experimentation and adult levels of smoking. Younger students consistently display lower levels of thiocyanate and carbon monoxide than older students of the same self-reported levels of smoking, suggesting that inhalation patterns may vary as a function of age or years smoking.

Key words

measurement smoking youth 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arkin, R. M., Roemhild, H. F., Johnson, C. A., Luepker, R. V. and Murray, D. M. (1981). The Minnesota smoking prevention program: A seventh grade health curriculum supplement.J. School Health 51(9): 611–616.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bachman, J. G., Johnston, L. D., and O'Malley, P. M. (1981). Smoking, drinking, and drug use among American high school students: Correlates and trends, 1975–1979.Am. J. Publ. Health 71(1): 50–69.Google Scholar
  3. Botvin, G. J., Eng, A., and Williams, C. L. (1981). Preventing the onset of cigarette smoking through life skills training.Prevent. Med. 9: 135–143.Google Scholar
  4. Boxer, G. E., and Rickards, J. C. (1952). Studies on the metabolism of the carbon of cyanide and thiocyanate.Arch. Biochem. 39: 7–26.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen, J., and Bartsch, G. E. (1980). A comparison between carboxyhemoglobin and serum thiocyanate determinations as indicators of cigarette smoking.Am. J. Publ. Health 70: 284–286.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, J., and Cohen, P. (1975).Applied Multiple Regression /Correlation Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, N.J.Google Scholar
  7. Evans, R. I., Hanse, W. B., and Mittelmark, M. B. (1977). Increasing the validity of selfreports of smoking behavior in children.J. Appl. Psychol. 62(4): 521–523.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Evans, R. I., Rozelle, R. M., Mittelmark, M. B., Hansen, W. B., Bane, A. L., and Havis, J. (1978). Deterring the onset of smoking in children: Knowledge of immediate physiological effects and coping with peer pressure, media pressure and parent modeling.J. Appl, Soc. Psychol. 8: 126–135.Google Scholar
  9. Evans, R. I., Rozelle, R. M., Maxwell, S. E., Raines, B. E., Dill, C. A., Guthrie, T. J., Henderson, A. H., and Hill, P. C. (1981). Social modeling films to deter smoking in adolescents: results of a three year field investigation.J. Appl. Psychol. 66(4): 399–414.Google Scholar
  10. Feyerabend, C. and Russell, M. A. H. (1979). Improved gas-chromatographic method and micro-extraction technique tor the measurement of nicotine in biological fluids.J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 31: 73–76.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Frederiksen, L. W., and Martin, J. E. (1979). Carbon monoxide and smoking behavior.Addict. 4: 21–30.Google Scholar
  12. Green, D. E. (1979). Teenage smoking: Immediate and long term patterns. National Institute of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Washington, D.C. November.Google Scholar
  13. Gruenke, L. D., Beelen, T. C. Craig, J. C., and Petrakis, N. L. (1979). The determination of nicotine in biological fluids at picogram levels by selected ion recording.Anal. Biochem. 94: 411–416.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Haley, N. J., Axelrod, C. M., and Tilton, K. A. (1983). Validation of self-reported smoking behavior: Biochemical analysis of cotinine and thiocyonate.American Journal of Public Health 73(10): 1204–1207.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hansen, W. B., and Evan, R. I. (1983). Feedback versus information concerning carbon monoxide as an early intervention strategy in adolescent smoking (in press).Google Scholar
  16. Hengen, N., and Hengen, M. (1978). Gas-liquid Chromatographic determination of nicotine and cotinine in plasma.Clin. Chem. 24(1): 50–53.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Hund, F. W., Pechacek, T. F., Luepker, R. V., and Neibling, M. J. (1984). Automated method for determination of saliva thiocyanate to measure tobacco smoking activity (submitted for publication).Google Scholar
  18. Hurd, P. H., Johnson, C. a., Pechacek, T. F., Bast, L. P., Jacobs, D. R., and Luepker, R. V. (1980). Prevention of cigarette smoking in seventh grade students.J. Behav. Med. 3: 15–27.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones, E. E., and Sigal, H. (1971). The bogus pipeline: A new paradigm for measuring affect and attitude.Psychol. Bull. 76: 349–364.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, R. H., Ellicott, M. F., Cadigan, J. B., and Gaensler, E. A. (1958). The relationship between alveolar and blood carbon monoxide concentrations during breathholding.J. Lab. Clin. Med. 51: 553–564.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Kozlowski, L. T., Herman, C. P., and Frecker, R. C. (1980). What researchers make of what cigarette smokers say: Filtering smokers' hot air.Lancet 1: 699–700.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Langer, P., and Greer, M. A. (1977).Antithyroid Substances and Naturally Occurring Goitrogens, S. Karger, Basel.Google Scholar
  23. Langone, J. J., Gjika, H. B., and Van Vinakis, H. (1973). Nicotine and its metabolities. Radioimmunoassays for nicotine and cotinine.Biochemistry 12: 5025–5030.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Langone, J. J., Van Vinakis, H., and Hill, P. (1975). Quantitation of cotinine in sera of smokers.Res. Commun. Chem. Pathol. Pharmacol. 10(1): 21–28.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Lawson, A. H., Sweeny, T. R., and Dudley, H. c. (1943). Toxicology of acrylonitrile (vinyl cyanide). III. Determination of thiocyanates in blood and urine.J. Indust. Hygiene Toxicol. 25: 13–19.Google Scholar
  26. Leventhal, H., and Cleary, P. D. (1980). The smoking problem: A review of the research and theory in behavioral risk modification.Psychol. Bull. 88: 370–405.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Luepker, R. V., Pechacek, T. F., Murray, D. M., Johnson, C. A., Hund, F., and Jacobs, D. R. (1981). Saliva thiocyanate: A chemical indicator of cigarette smoking in adolescents saliva thiocyanate: An indicator of cigarette use.Am. J. Publ. Health 71(12): 1320–1324.Google Scholar
  28. Maliszewski, T. F., and Bass, D. E. (1955). “True” and “apparent” thiocyanate in body fluids of smokers and nonsmokers.J. Appl. Physiol. 8(3): 289–296.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. McAlister, A., Perry, C. L., and Maccoby, N. (1979). Adolescent smoking: Onset and prevention.Pediatrics 63: 650–658.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. McAlister, A., Perry, C. L., Killen, J., Slinkard, L. A., and Maccoby, N. (1980). Pilot study of smoking, alcohol and drug abuse prevention.Am. J. Publ. Health 70: 719–721.Google Scholar
  31. Mittelmark, M. B., Murray, D. M., Luepker, R. V., and Pechacek, T. F. (1982). Cigarette smoking among adolescents: Is the rate declining?Prevent. Med. 11: 708–712.Google Scholar
  32. Murray, D. M., Pechacek, T. F., Luepker, R. V., and Mittelmark, M. B. (1984a). Measurement of adolescent smoking behavior: Results and recommendations (unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
  33. Murray, D. M., Johnson, C. A., Luepher, R. V., and Mittelmark, M. B. (1984b). The prevention of cigarette smoking in children: A comparison of four strategies.Journal of Applied Social Psychology (in press).Google Scholar
  34. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Department of Health Education and Welfare (1976). Occupational exposure to hydrogen cyanide and cyanide salts. DHEW Pub. No. (NIOSH) 77-108, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  35. Pechacek, T. F., Murray, D. M., Luepker, R. V., and Fox, B. (1984). The measurement of adolescent and adult smoking behavior. In Matarazzo, J. D., Miller, N. E., Weiss, S. M.,and Herd, J. A.Behavioral Health: A Handbook of Health Enhancement and Disease Prevention, Wiley, New York (in press).Google Scholar
  36. Perry, C. L., Killen, J., Telch, M., Slinkard, L. A., and Danaher, B. G. (1980). Modifying smoking behavior of teenagers: A school-based intervention.Am. J. Publ. Health 70: 722–725.Google Scholar
  37. Prue, D. M., Martin, J. E., and Hume, A. S. (1980). A critical evaluation of thiocyanate as a biochemical index of smoking exposure.Behav. Ther. 11: 368–379.Google Scholar
  38. Vogt, T. M., Selvin, S., Widdowson, G. M.,et al. (1977). Expired air carbon monoxide and serum thiocyanate as objective measures of cigarette exposure.Am. J. Publ. Health 67: 545–549.Google Scholar
  39. Watson, I. D. (1977). Rapid analysis of nicotine and cotinine in the urine of smokers by isocratic high-performance liquid chromatography.J. Chromatol. 143: 203–206.Google Scholar
  40. Williams, C. L., Eng, A., Botvin, G. J., Hill, P., and Wynder, E. L. (1979). Validation of students self-reported cigarette smoking status with plasma cotinine levels.Am. J. Publ. Health 69: 1272–1274.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terry F. Pechacek
    • 1
  • David M. Murray
    • 1
  • Russell V. Luepker
    • 1
  • Maurice B. Mittelmark
    • 1
  • C. Anderson Johnson
    • 2
  • James M. Shutz
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Epidemiology, School of Public HealthUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolis
  2. 2.Health Behavior Research Institute, School of PharmacyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles

Personalised recommendations