Individual change amid stable smoking patterns in polydrug users over 3 years

William J. McCarthy, Yun Zhou, Yih Ing Hser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The pattern of stability/change in smoking status was examined annually in 254 community-dwelling polydrug users over 3 years. Respondents' smoking status was classified as nonsmoker, intermittent smoker, or 'everyday' smoker. Results showed that the typical probability of retaining the same smoking status across any two consecutive assessments was: 0.77 for nonsmokers (never smokers and former smokers combined), 0.82 for everyday smokers, and 0.16 for intermittent smokers. The transition matrix proved stable across three observations; the predicted equilibrium distribution matched well with observed distributions. Fifty-five percent of intermittent smokers converted to everyday smoking within a year, but 29% converted to former-smoker status in the same period. No other transition exceeded 12%. Considerable flux in individual smoking status, particularly among intermittent smokers, was observed despite stable prevalence of smoking status in this population. Intermittent smoking status appeared to be a temporary 'way station' between the two more stable everyday smoker and nonsmoker classifications. Results challenge current assumptions about 'occasional' or 'chipper' smokers. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-149
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Markov Chain analysis
  • Natural history
  • Polydrug users
  • Smoking cessation
  • Smoking status
  • Tobacco use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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