Characterizing early cigarette use episodes in novice smokers

Michelle C. Acosta, Thomas Eissenberg, Mimi Nichter, Mark Nichter, Robert L. Balster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Retrospective self-report data indicate that early cigarette use episodes may be important predictors of smoking. Unfortunately, recall of early experiences are confounded with current smoking. The current study is the first to examine early cigarette use episodes (EUEs) prospectively in novice smokers (less than 15 lifetime cigarettes). Smoking amount, context and subjective experiences for up to five of the first cigarette episodes during their first year of college were collected using weekly internet-based questionnaires and structured interviews. Data were obtained on 538 EUEs from 163 students. EUEs generally occurred within a social/party context; over 90% of EUEs occurred when participants were with other people who were smoking and over 65% occurred while participants were drinking alcohol. Subjective effects across episodes were reported as generally mild and factor analysis yielded Positive, Negative and Sensory/Peripheral effects scales. Subjective effects were related to the amount smoked and inhalation, whereas EUE context, including alcohol use and social context, was not. This study demonstrates that it is possible to study EUEs in college students within days or weeks of their occurrence and that most of these occur in social settings with the concurrent use of alcohol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-121
Number of pages16
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • College students
  • Context
  • Initiation
  • Smoking
  • Subjective effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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