Abstract

Introduction:

The purpose of this study was to examine transitions in smoking from adolescence into emerging adulthood and to identify factors that might influence these transitions, specifically, movement into and out of light and intermittent smoking.

Methods:

This study used Markov models to examine movement across three stages of smoking (nonsmoking, light and intermittent smoking, and heavy smoking) from adolescence into emerging adulthood. Biannual data were collected from 990 young men and women from the 12th grade until 2 years after high school.

Results:

At each timepoint, most youth were nonsmokers. Those who were heavy smokers in 12th grade had a 79% chance of also being heavy smokers 2 years after high school. Between 17% and 21% of participants were light and intermittent smokers at each timepoint, and the likelihood of remaining so at the next timepoint ranged from 56% to 72%. Less than one-half of the 12th-grade light and intermittent smokers were light and intermittent smokers 2 years later, and 3% of the sample were light and intermittent smokers across all assessments. Prevalence and transition rates did not differ by gender. College attendees reported less smoking than nonattendees before and after their transition to college, and attendees compared with nonattendees who smoked were less likely to transition from light and intermittent to heavy smoking and remain heavy smokers. Binge drinking was significantly related to 12th-grade smoking stage and to transitions from nonsmoking to smoking. Overall, few emerging adults maintained light and intermittent smoking consistently over time.

Discussion:

Light and intermittent smoking during emerging adulthood may not be the same phenomenon as light and intermittent smoking in adulthood.

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