Discontinuous Patterns of Cigarette Smoking from Age 18 to 50 in the U.S.: A Repeated-Measures Latent Class Analysis

Introduction: Effective cigarette smoking prevention and intervention programming is enhanced by accurate understanding of developmental smoking pathways across the lifespan. This study investigated within-person patterns of cigarette smoking from age 18-50 among a U.S. national sample of high school graduates, focusing on identifying ages of particular importance for smoking involvement change. Methods: Using data from approximately 15,000 individuals participating in the longitudinal Monitoring the Future study, trichotomous measures of past 30-day smoking obtained at 11 time points were modeled using repeated-measures latent class analyses. Sex differences in latent class structure and membership were examined. Results: Twelve latent classes were identified: three characterized by consistent smoking patterns across age (no smoking; smoking < pack per day; smoking pack+ per day); three showing uptake to a higher category of smoking across age; four reflecting successful quit behavior by age 50; and two defined by discontinuous shifts between smoking categories. The same latent class structure was found for both males and females, but membership probabilities differed between sexes. While evidence of increases or decreases in smoking behavior was observed at virtually all ages through 35, 21/22 and 29/30 appeared to be particularly key for smoking category change within class. Conclusions: This examination of latent classes of cigarette smoking among a national U.S. longitudinal sample of high school graduates from age 18 to 50 identified unique patterns and critical ages of susceptibility to change in smoking category within class. Such information may be of particular use in developing effective smoking prevention and intervention programming. IMPLICATIONS: This study examined cigarette smoking among a national longitudinal U.S. sample of high school graduates from ages 18 to 50 and identified distinct latent classes characterized by patterns of movement between no cigarette use, light-to-moderate smoking, and the conventional definition of heavy smoking at 11 time points via repeated-measures latent class analysis. Membership probabilities for each smoking class were estimated, and critical ages of susceptibility to change in smoking behaviors were identified.