Protocol - Tobacco - Age of Initiation of Use - Adolescent

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Measurement to ascertain the respondent’s age of initiation of first/regular use of cigarettes, which can be used to calculate duration of use and pack-years measures.


The Working Group acknowledges that the following questions may gather sensitive information relating to the use of substances and/or illegal conduct. If the information is released it might be damaging to an individual's employability, lead to social stigmatization, or other consequences.

For information on obtaining a Certificate of Confidentiality, which helps researchers protect the privacy of human research participants, please go to the National Human Genome Research Institute's Institutional Review Board website.

Note to interviewer: Respondents who were classified as a "Smoker" or "Non Smoker" in the Tobacco - Smoking Status (Adolescent Protocol) (by answering Question 1 as "Yes" [Have you ever smoked part or all of a cigarette?]) are asked the following question:

How old were you the first time you smoked part or all of a cigarette?

AGE: ____ [RANGE: 1 - 110]

Don't Know / Refused

Note to interviewer: Respondents who were classified as a Current Every-Day Smoker in the Tobacco - Smoking Status (Adolescent Protocol) as well as respondents who were classified as a Current Some-Day Smoker or a Former Smoker and also answered the Tobacco - Lifetime Use (Adolescent Protocol), Question 3 as "Yes" (Has there ever been a period in your life when you smoked cigarettes every day for at least 30 days?) are asked:

How old were you when you first started smoking cigarettes every day?

AGE: ____ [RANGE: 1 - 110]

Don't Know / Refused

Protocol Name from Source:

The Expert Review Panel has not reviewed this measure yet.


Publicly available

Personnel and Training Required

If an interviewer prepares the survey for self-administration, the interviewer must be trained and found competent to conduct personal interviews with individuals from the general population.

Equipment Needs

While the source instrument was developed for administration by computer, the PhenX Working Group acknowledges that these questions can be administered in a noncomputerized format.

Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual No
Mode of Administration

Self-administered questionnaire

Life Stage:



12 through 17 years of age*

* If the study population consists of adolescents and young adults (12-24 years) with the intention of studying onset of risky behaviors, the investigator may wish to use the adolescent profile. If the study population primarily consists of adults (≥18 years), emphasizing established smoking and/or cessation, the investigator should use the adult profile.

Specific Instructions:

All adolescent respondents are asked if they smoked in the last 30 days. If the respondent has smoked during the past 30 days, he or she is asked to report the quantity and frequency of cigarette smoking.

The respondent is classified as an Every-Day Smoker, Some-Day Smoker, or Former Smoker based on how they respond to the second question in the Tobacco - Smoking Status protocol: Do you now smoke cigarettes every day, some days, or not at all?

Selection Rationale

The protocol from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) was selected because this survey is the primary combined source of information on the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States. The study was initiated in 1971, and it is currently conducted on an annual basis. The NSDUH is a survey that includes all substance use and that is administered to individuals ages 12 years and older. This survey asks many additional questions that may be more relevant to investigators studying adolescent subjects.


English, Spanish

Common Data Elements (CDE) Tobacco Adolescent Begin Age 2923476 CDE Browser
Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) Tobac age init use adoles proto 62556-6 LOINC
Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel #3 (ERP 3) reviewed the measures in Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Substances, and Substance Abuse and Addiction domains.

Guidance from ERP 3 includes:

· Changed name of measure

Back-compatible: NA no changes to Data Dictionary

Previous version in Toolkit archive (link)


2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. CAI Specifications for Programming, English Version; November 2007 (questions CG04, CG16).

General References

Amos, C. I., Wu, X., Broderick, P., Gorlov, I. P., Gu, J., Eisen, T., Dong, Q., Zhang, Q., Gu, X., Vijayakrishnan, J., Sullivan, K., Matakidou, A., Wang, Y., Mills, G., Doheny, K., Tsai, Y. Y., Chen, W. V., Shete, S., Spitz, M. R., & Houlston, R. S. (2008). Genome-wide association scan of tag SNPs identifies a susceptibility locus for lung cancer at 15q25.1. Nature Genetics, 40(5), 616-622.

Protocol ID:


Export Variables
Variable NameVariable IDVariable DescriptionVersiondbGaP Mapping
PX030701_First_Cigarette_Smoking_Age PX030701010000 How old were you the first time you smoked part or all of a cigarette? 4 Variable Mapping
PX030701_First_Cigarette_Smoking_Age_Coded PX030701010100 How old were you the first time you smoked part or all of a cigarette? 4 N/A
PX030701_First_Cigarette_Smoking_Everyday_Age PX030701020000 How old were you when you first started smoking cigarettes every day? 4 N/A
PX030701_First_Cigarette_Smoking_Everyday_Age_Coded PX030701020100 How old were you when you first started smoking cigarettes every day? 4 N/A
Research Domain Information
Measure Name:

Age of Initiation of First Cigarette Use

Release Date:

February 6, 2009


Questions asking the respondent how old s/he was when s/he first smoked cigarettes and first smoked cigarettes regularly.


This measure assesses when the participant’s exposure to cigarette smoking began, often associated with level of nicotine addiction. When this measure is used in conjunction with the Tobacco - Age of Offset of Use measure for former smokers or current age for current smokers, the participant’s duration of smoking can be derived. Pack-years can also be derived from calculating the measure of amount smoked and duration.


tobacco, smoking, cigarette, nicotine, nicotine dependence, duration of smoking, pack years, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, NSDUH