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An examination of the smoking identities and taxonomies of smoking behaviour of youth
  1. C T C Okoli1,
  2. C G Richardson2,
  3. P A Ratner1,
  4. J L Johnson1
  1. 1
    NEXUS Research Unit, School of Nursing University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  2. 2
    Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  1. C T C Okoli, NEXUS, University of British Columbia, 302-1620 Agronomy Rd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada; chizimuzo.okoli{at}


Objective: To address observations that the smoking identities of youth are valid descriptors of their smoking behaviour, we examined the relationships between self-reported smoking identities, perceived levels of addiction, and established taxonomies of smoking behaviour of youth.

Method: Cross-sectional data were collected on demographics, perceived extent of addiction to tobacco, smoking history, and self-reported smoking identity from questionnaires administered to 8225 students in British Columbia, Canada. A total of 7246 participants were categorised according to four smoking taxonomies established in the literature. Differences in perceived physical and mental addiction between smoking identity groups were calculated. The strength of the associations between the taxonomies of smoking and the smoking identity groups was also assessed.

Results: There were significant differences in perceived levels of physical (Kruskal–Wallis χ2  3985.02, p<0.001) and mental (Kruskal–Wallis χ2  4046.09, p<0.001) addiction to tobacco by the participants’ self-reported smoking identity. Youth smoking identities were modestly associated with the established smoking taxonomies (Pearson C contingency coefficient  0.64–0.72).

Conclusion: Self-reported smoking identities appear to provide valid characterisations of the smoking behaviour of youths that complement and elaborate existing taxonomies of smoking behaviour. Questions about self-reported smoking identity should be used in conjunction with smoking behaviour taxonomies when investigating youth smoking behaviours.

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  • Funding: This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) operating grant (grant #62980). CTCO was supported by a CIHR Strategic Training Program in Tobacco Research (STPTR) Post-doctoral Fellowship and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) NEXUS Research Unit Traineeship. CGR was supported by CIHR and NEXUS Post-doctoral Fellowships. JLJ was supported by a CIHR Investigator Award. PAR is a Senior Scholar funded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: This study was approved by the University of British Columbia Behavioural Research Ethics Board.