Prevalence and characteristics of smokers at 30 Pacific Northwest colleges and universities.Nicotine Tob Res 2007; 9(3):429-38NT
College is an important transition period during which young adults explore tobacco use. Few large-scale studies have been conducted among college students regarding tobacco use. We initiated a study examining tobacco use in 30 colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest. We conducted a baseline survey among students. Sample size varied by the school size; for the 14 largest schools, we drew a random sample of all students, oversampling freshmen (n approximately 750) so that we could recruit and follow a cohort to assess smoking onset during the college years. Of the remaining students, we sampled equivalent numbers of sophomores, juniors, and seniors (n = 200 each). For the 16 schools with fewer than 1,350 students, we surveyed all students. We found overall smoking rates of 17.2%. Males (18.6%) were more likely to smoke than females (16.6%; p = .03), and public college students were more likely to smoke (20.5%) than those who attended private independent schools (18.9%; p = .61), whose rates were higher than those of private religious schools (11.6%; p = .001). Overall, college students are light smokers who do not smoke every day of the month. Further, they tend not to be highly dependent on tobacco, do not consider themselves regular smokers, and plan to quit before they graduate (56.8%). School type should be considered when estimating smoking rates among 4-year college students. Data indicate that college smokers wish and plan to quit before graduation, suggesting that efforts to assist smokers in quitting during the college years may be fruitful.