Smoking initiation during young adulthood: A longitudinal study of a population-based cohort

Debra H. Bernat, Elizabeth G. Klein, Jean L. Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Purpose: To examine the extent to which young adults initiate smoking between the ages of 18 and 21 years; to characterize the frequency and quantity of use among initiators; and to examine predictors of initiation. Methods: Participants included youth who were part of the Minnesota Adolescent Community Cohort Study and had not smoked a whole cigarette before age of 18 (n = 2,034). Initiation in the present study was defined as having smoked a whole cigarette or more between the ages of 18 and 21. Predictors of initiation were measured at age 18 and included sociodemographic characteristics, social influences, and attitudes and beliefs about smoking. Results: Twenty-five percent (n = 510) of participants initiated smoking between the ages of 18 and 21 years. Among those who initiated, the majority (64%) reported smoking during the past 30 days, and approximately one-quarter (24%) reported smoking 100 cigarettes or more. Predictors of young adult initiation included being male, living in a metropolitan area, having friends who smoke, and the belief that smoking can calm someone down when they are angry or nervous. Conclusions: This study indicates that smoking initiation during young adulthood is not uncommon. These results highlight the need for tobacco prevention programs that target young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-502
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute ( R01 CA86191 ; J.F., Principal Investigator) and ClearWay Minnesota ( RC-2007-0018 ; J.F. and D.H.B., Co-Principal Investigators). The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of ClearWay Minnesota.


  • Initiation
  • Smoking
  • Tobacco
  • Young adults
  • Youth


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