Social Smoking Among US College Students

Young smokers commonly identify themselves as "social smokers," a pattern of smoking behavior that is poorly understood. This study assessed the prevalence and correlates of social smoking among U.S. college students. The study used a cross-sectional survey of a random sample of 10,904 students enrolled at 119 nationally representative U.S. colleges in 2001. A total of 51 percent of 2,401 current (past 30-day) smokers were social smokers. (To assess social smoking, students were asked, "In the past 30 days, do you smoke mainly when you are with people, mainly when you are alone, or do you smoke as often by yourself as with others?" Students who stated that they smoked mainly with others rather than alone or equally by themselves and others were defined as social smokers for this analysis.) Researchers found that social smoking was independently associated with a lower frequency and intensity of tobacco use, less nicotine dependence, less intention to quit, and fewer recent quit attempts. The study concludes that social smoking is a distinct pattern of tobacco use that is common among college students and may represent a distinct stage in the uptake of smoking.