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Temporal Patterns of Cigarette Smoking and Its Associated Covariates: a Multilevel Longitudinal Data Analysis

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Understanding differences in cigarette smoking patterns such as the frequency between-person and within-person is essential for tailored tobacco health education interventions. Previous studies, however, mostly limited analysis to computation of cigarette smoking frequency and its correlates. This article used multilevel models to examine between-person and within-person variations in cigarette smoking patterns over a 13-year period.


We merged the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health public-use data waves 1–4 into one longitudinal dataset for use in this study. Our analysis was based on the past-month’s average number of cigarette smoked per day. We used linear mixed model approach to fit multilevel models.


The average number of cigarette smoked per day (CPD) among the sample at baseline/wave 1 was 6.92 (SD = 8.18). Time of observation in years (β = 0.455 (p < .001), age (β = 0.355, p < .001), past-year alcohol use frequency (β = −0.329, p < .001), and illicit drug use (β = 1.128, p < .001) were associated with average number of CPD. There were significant variations in the average number of CPD between-person (β = 29.602, p < .001) and within-person (variance = 34.393, p < .001).


This study demonstrates that rate of change in average number of CPD over years among the study sample could be different between-adolescent and within-adolescent depending on other substance use and demographic factors. Hence, tailored tobacco use educational programs or interventions and policies targeting these adolescents could be designed according to between-adolescent and within-adolescent differences in the average number of CPD trajectories.

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Authors and Affiliations



David Adzrago served as the leading author, conducted the literature review, performed the statistical analyses, drafted the manuscript, and coordinated writing the manuscript. Lucy Kavi coordinated the manuscript writing and provided critical revisions of the manuscript. Rosemary I. Ezeugoh and Bennie Osafo-Darko provided critical revisions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to David Adzrago.

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This paper was performed using de-identified public use data and therefore a review from the authors’ Institutional Review Board was not required.

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• This is the first study to examine between-person and within-person variations in the number of cigarette smoked per day over a 13-year period.

• The rate of change in the average number of cigarette smoked per day was associated with every year increase in the observation period.

• Age was associated with increased average number of number of cigarette smoked per day.

• Illicit drug use was associated with increased average number of cigarette smoked per day.

• Average number of cigarette smoked per day differed among the sample due to between-person and within-person differences.

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Adzrago, D., Kavi, L., Ezeugoh, R.I. et al. Temporal Patterns of Cigarette Smoking and Its Associated Covariates: a Multilevel Longitudinal Data Analysis. Glob Soc Welf 9, 121–129 (2022).

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