Codes and Frequencies
For sample adults who ever smoked 100 cigarettes (SMOKEV), SMOKAGEREG reports the age respondents first started smoking cigarettes "fairly regularly."
Beginning in 2020, SMOKAGEREG was one of several variables collected as part of a rotating core of NHIS content covering smoking history and cessation, asked every other year. In addition to SMOKAGEREG, the smoking history and cessation rotating core also includes the following variables:
- QUITNO: Time since quitting smoking: Number of units
- QUITTP: Time since quitting smoking: Time period
- QUITYRS: Years since quit smoking
- CSQSTOP12M: Stopped smoking for 1+ days in past year
- MDSMQADV: Health provider advised to quit smoking, past 12 months
In addition to NHIS rotating core content on smoking history and cessation, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) have also sponsored questions that cover, in part, topics related to cigarette smoking history. In 2020, the NCI and NCCDPHP sponsored content questions on cigarette smoking history included CIGSDAYFS ("Number cigarettes per day (former smoker)") and CIGSLONGFS ("Cigarettes per day smoked, longest smoking period").
In 1970 respondents were asked, "About how old was [person] when he first started smoking cigarettes fairly regularly?" Before receiving the question associated with SMOKAGE, respondents were asked whether they had ever smoked 100 cigarettes (SMOKEV) and whether they currently smoked. Respondents who reported having ever smoked 100 cigarettes or for whom it was unknown whether they had ever smoked 100 cigarettes and who either reported that they did not currently smoke or had an unknown answer for whether they currently smoked were asked the follow-up question, "How long has it been since [person] smoked cigarettes fairly regularly?" Only respondents who did not report that they never smoked regularly to this question were asked the question associated with SMOKAGEREG. Also included in the universe for SMOKAGEREG in 1970 are respondents who reported having ever smoked 100 cigarettes (SMOKEV) and who indicated that they currently smoked.
For 1997 forward respondents were asked, "How old were you when you FIRST started to smoke fairly regularly?" This question was asked of sample adults age 18+ who reported having ever smoked 100 cigarettes (SMOKEV).
The 1970 Field Representative's Manual instructed interviewers to "[e]xclude marijuana, a type of wild tobacco, (also called "pot" or "grass')" when accepting responses to the smoking-related questions.
The 1997-2000 Field Representative's Manuals stated, "The questions in this section concern cigarette smoking only. Accept whatever the Sample Adult reports, except if it is volunteered that he/she smoked a pipe, cigars of any kind, marijuana, hashish, 'crack', or the like." The Manuals for 2001 forward define a cigarette as "anything the respondent reports except cigars or any kind of marijuana."
The 1970 Manual defined "fairly regularly" as "smoking one or more cigarettes on three or more consecutive days." The Field Representative's Manuals for 1997 forward stated that "first started to smoke fairly regularly" and "smoking regularly" are respondent defined. If respondents asked what it meant, the Manuals for 1997 forward instructed interviewers say, "'It's whatever you consider as first starting to smoke fairly regularly.'"
In 1970, the Manual instructed that "if a person does not remember his exact age when he first started smoking cigarettes regularly, obtain his best estimate. As an aid, subtract the number of years from his present age. A person may also be able to relate age started smoking to his high school or college attendance or Armed Forces service."
The Manuals for 1997-2000 instructed interviewers to "Always probe for an exact age" and to assist respondents in making an estimate if they reported a range or interval.
This variable is completely comparable from 1997 to 2018.
Along with changes in universe, procedural changes limit the comparability of this variable between 1997 and 1997-2018, and between 1997-2018 and 2020 forward. In 1970, a respondent representing the family (a proxy) could answer the question associated with CIGSDAY for other family members age 17+. In 1997 forward, except in rare cases where disability precluded self-reporting, sample adults (1997 forward) answered the question themselves. Because self-reporting is likely to be more accurate than proxy reporting, researchers should exercise caution when comparing results between 1970 and 1997-2018.
Questionnaire design changes introduced in 2019 limit comparability with earlier years. The NHIS questionnaire was substantially redesigned in 2019 to introduce a different data collection structure and new content. For more information on changes in terminology, universes, and data collection methods beginning in 2019, please see the user note.
- 1970: Persons age 17+ who have ever smoked 100 cigarettes and currently smoke OR who have ever smoked 100 cigarettes, don't currently smoke or whose current smoking status is unknown, and didn't report having never smoked regularly OR for whom it is unknown if ever smoked 100 cigarettes and didn't report having never smoked regularly.
- 1978; 1980: Sample persons age 17+ in quarters 3 and 4 who ever smoked 100 cigarettes in their entire lives and did not report that they never smoked regularly.
- 1979: Sample persons age 17+ who ever smoked 100 cigarettes in their entire lives and did not report that they never smoked regularly.
- 1987: Half of sample persons age 18+ (excluded from CAEP supplement) who ever smoked 100 cigarettes.
- 1988: Sample persons age 18+ who ever smoked 100 cigarettes in their entire lives
- 1992: Half of sample persons age 18+ in quarters 1 and 2, and in 2 weeks of quarter 3 (excluded from CAEP supplement) who ever smoked 100 cigarettes in their lives.
- 1997-2018: Sample adults age 18+ who ever smoked 100 cigarettes in their lives.
- 2020: Sample adults age 18+ who ever smoked 100 cigarettes in their lives (SMOKEV).
- 1970, 1978-1980, 1987-1988, 1992, 1997-2018, 2020