To evaluate the predictive validity of nicotine-dependence symptoms in 9th- and 10th-grade adolescents.
A total of 594 adolescents who had not smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and 152 adolescents who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime were included in the analysis. The predictive validity of 10 nicotine-dependence items administered at baseline was evaluated at the 24-month follow-up assessment.
For those who smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes, higher levels of experienced nicotine-dependence symptoms at baseline, as well as individual symptoms, predicted current and daily smoking behavior at the 24-month follow-up, over and above baseline smoking. For adolescents who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes at baseline, the level of nicotine dependence and individual symptom endorsement did not predict smoking behavior at the 24-month follow-up.
Our findings demonstrate that early emerging dependence symptoms reported at low levels of smoking exposure signal a greater propensity for continued smoking behavior not accounted for by current or past smoking exposure. Screening for these early emerging symptoms among novice adolescent smokers represents an important and unused tool in tobacco control efforts aimed at preventing the development of chronic smoking patterns.
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