Nicotine Dependence and Withdrawal Symptoms among Occasional Smokers

S. Panday*, S.P. Reddy, R.A.C. Ruiter, E. Bergström, H. de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: This study describes the levels of nicotine dependence, withdrawal symptoms, depressive mood, and risk behavior reported by male and female weekly and monthly adolescent smokers in South Africa. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among 554 grade 9-11 weekly and monthly smokers in the Southern Cape-Karoo Region. Differences between the gender groups and smoking status were analyzed while controlling for demographic characteristics. Results: Weekly and monthly smokers were classified as light smokers having smoked 6-10 cigarettes and 0-1 cigarettes a week, respectively. However, they displayed substantial levels of dependence, with 11.6% of weekly smokers classified as highly dependent. Furthermore, 55.9% of weekly smokers and 47.1% of the overall sample experienced more than two withdrawal symptoms. Although dependency levels and withdrawal symptoms were higher among weekly smokers, the levels were not negligible among monthly smokers. Weekly smokers reported higher levels of depressive mood and risk behavior than monthly smokers. Females reported higher levels of dependence, withdrawal symptoms, depressive mood, and lower levels of risk behavior than males. Gender differences were not found on the number of cigarettes smoked in a week. Conclusions: This study demonstrates multiple symptoms of dependence among a large sample of adolescent occasional smokers in a multi-ethnic cultural setting. Smoking cessation programs may, therefore, be required to help adolescents quit smoking and possibly consider pharmacotherapy for highly dependent smokers. Prevention programs should also consider providing occasional smokers skills to identify and cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-150
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007


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