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Cigarette smoking recode 2: Current detailed/former/never

Codes and Frequencies

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For sample adults 18 and over, this is a recoded variable indicating the respondent's current smoking status in categories of current smoker, every day current smoker, some day current smoker, current smoker--unknown frequency of smoking, and also indicates former smoker, never smoked and "has smoked, current smoking status unknown."


In this variable, current smokers were divided into "every day" smokers or "some days" smokers. The process to classify respondents into these categories changed slightly between 1991 and 1992 forward. In 1991, ever smokers were asked if they smoke now; respondents who said "yes" were asked if they smoked "every day" or "some days. Respondents who answered "no" were asked, "Do you smoke some days or not at all?" This additional follow-up resulted in the classification of persons as "someday smokers" who would otherwise have been considered former smokers, since they initially said that they did not smoke now.

In 1992, questions on smoking status were included in two sections of the survey; in the Cancer Control section, the same three questions from in the 1991 questionnaire were used; in the Cancer Epidemiology section, just two questions were used: "Have you smoked at least 100 cigarettes during your entire life?" If yes, "Do you NOW smoke cigarettes every day, some days, or not at all?" Use of both sets of questions allowed for estimation of the impact of the question change on population prevalence. The revised current smoking status question was estimated to have resulted in an increase in smoking prevalence of about 1 percent-- a result occurring mainly from capturing smoking among persons who would otherwise have been classified as nonsmokers with the original question.

This version of the question was used from 1992 forward.

Related Variables

Other recoded smoking status variables are included in the NHIS.


These include:

  • SMOKESTATUS1 "never," "current," "former," "former regular smoker," "former occasional smoker," "unknown," and unknown if ever smoked 100 cigarettes," and "smoked 100 cigarettes, unknown if currently smoke."

  • SMOKESTATUS3 categorizes respondents into current every day smoker, current some day smoker ((1 or more days, past month), current some day smoker (0 days, past month), current some day smoker (unknown days in past month) and also indicates former smoker, never smoked and "has smoked, current smoking status unknown."


Apart from changes in the universe, changes in the process used to classify of smoking status, as discussed above, reduce comparability between 1991 and 1992 forward. For 1992-2018, this variable is comparable over time.

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.


  • 1991: Sample persons age 18+.
  • 1992: Sample persons age 18+ in quarters 1 and 2 and in 2 weeks of quarter 3.
  • 1993: Half of sample persons age 18+ in quarters 3 and 4 (excluded from AIDS supplement).
  • 1994-1995: Half of sample persons age 18+ (excluded from AIDS supplement)
  • 1997-2018: Sample adults age 18+.
  • 2019-2022: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1991-1995, 1997-2022