Smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable disease in the United States [1
]. Despite efforts to decrease its prevalence, 18.1% of Americans continue to smoke [2
]. While daily smoking is declining [3
], non-daily smoking (smoking on some days but not every day) is increasing [4
]. Estimates from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health [5
] and from the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey [6
] indicate that between a fourth and a third of adults report non-daily smoking. While non-daily smoking may be a transitory condition between daily smoking and quitting [7
] or a transitional phase to heavier or regular cigarette use [10
], some research shows that this pattern of smoking may continue indefinitely [11
]. Additionally, although most non-daily smokers report motivation to quit, research has documented that they may show signs of physiological addiction [14
], have difficulty quitting [16
], and are less likely to receive or seek treatment compared with heavier smokers [18
Unfortunately, non-daily smokers suffer from significant smoking-related morbidity and mortality compared with never smokers [21
]. The 2004 US Surgeon General’s report on the health consequences of smoking indicates that even low levels of exposure carry substantial risks, particularly for cardiovascular disease, lung and gastrointestinal cancers, lower respiratory tract infections, cataracts, compromised reproductive health and osteoporosis [24
]. Moreover, smoking on as few as 5 days month−1
is associated with symptoms of cough and sore throat and smoking on as few as 20 days month−1
is associated with shortness of breath and fatigue among college students [25
]. Thus, promoting cessation among non-daily smokers is critical.
Young adults have been particularly affected by the increase in non-daily smoking [26
]. One form of non-daily cigarette use particularly prevalent among young adults is ‘social smoking’, which implies smoking predominantly in the presence of others, typically at parties, bars or nightclubs [26
] and often times when consuming alcohol [10
]. Social smokers generally do not define themselves as smokers [27
], believe they are addicted [27
], perceive negative consequences of their smoking [28
] or show interest in quitting, as they often believe that they could stop at any time [27
]. In addition, non-daily smoking may be associated with binge drinking, particularly on US college campuses [29
A recent study of college student smokers [31
] identified five subclasses of smokers: heavy smokers (28%), moderate smokers (22%), social smokers (19%), puffers (26%) and no-context smokers (4%). Puffers were more likely to be younger students than heavy and social smokers, indicating a transition to regular use after experimentation. Moderate and social smokers were more likely to be current drinkers and to have engaged in binge drinking in the past month than were heavy smokers. While this research elucidates the differing subgroups of college student smokers, it remains uncertain how motives for smoking differ among subgroups of smokers.
In another recent study of college student smokers [32
], having made a recent quit attempt among daily smokers was associated with smoking <20 cigarettes per day, not smoking within 30 min of waking and having a usual type of cigarette. Having made a recent quit attempt among non-daily smokers was associated with being female, non-Hispanic and smoking a usual type of cigarette. Moreover, lower socio-economic status was associated with less intention to quit. Although this study identified sociodemographic and specific smoking-related characteristics associated with recent quit attempts among college students, research is warranted regarding how contextual factors and motives for smoking might impact readiness to quit.
Given the gaps in the existing literature, the present study examined (i) the association of motives for smoking and smoking level among current smokers and (ii) correlates of readiness to quit, particularly motives for smoking, among current college student smokers.