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Tobacco use trajectories in young adults: Analyses of predictors across systems levels

During the last decade there has been several new tobacco products emerging including combustible and non-combustible products. This shift in tobacco products and use is seen significantly among young adults. The current study looks at trajectories of tobacco use among young adult college students.

This study took information from a larger study called Documenting Experiences with Cigarettes and Other Tobacco in Young Adults (DECOY). The final study included 2,952 participants from Georgia-based college or universities between the age of 18-25 years. Participants were asked if they had tried a variety of tobacco products during their lifetime. They were also asked about sociodemographic factors, psychosocial factors, adverse childhood experiences, depressive symptoms, ADHD symptoms, age of first use of different substances, and 30-day tobacco product use. Other factors determined included number of products ever used, social support, parental substance use and community-level factors.

Around 30% of participants reported past 30-day tobacco use with reports declining after the age of 26. The researchers classified participants into four trajectory groups. The first was abstainers/dabblers and was the biggest with 92% of participants classified in this group. The second was adult users (4.2%) followed by college smokers (2.5%), and teenage users (1.8%). Predictors of adult users were found to be male, earlier onset of marijuana use, attending public universities or technical colleges, and living in urban areas. Predictors of college users were found to be male, earlier onset marijuana use, and parental alcohol or marijuana use. Finally, the predictor of teenage user was earlier onset marijuana use. This information can be important when determining if a young adult needs intervention and how to target that intervention based on their trajectory of use. 

Take Away: With new tobacco products emerging, there is concern about how it will affect young adult’s tobacco use. The current study looks at trajectories of tobacco use among young adult college students. The final study included 2,952 participants from Georgia-based college or universities between the age of 18-25 years old. The participants were asked about their first use of different substances and 30-day tobacco product use. Other factors determined included number of products ever used, social support, parental substance use and community-level factors. The researchers classified participants into four trajectory groups including abstainers/dabblers (92%), adult users (4.2%), college smokers (2.5%), and teenage users (1.8%). These classes had several predictors which may be helpful when developing targeted interventions for young adults.

Berg, C. J., Haardörfer, R., Lanier, A., Childs, D., Foster, B., Getachew, B., & Windle, M. (2020). Tobacco Use Trajectories in Young Adults: Analyses of Predictors Across Systems Levels. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntaa048

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