Doctoral Dissertations


Robert Fisher

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

William S. Verplanck


The results of laboratory studies of cigarette smoking are of questionable value if the experimental smoking patterns are not like those of "real world" smoking. For instance, the amount of tar, nicotine and hazardous gases collected by a smoking machine may not reflect the amount smokers are actually exposed to unless the machine is programmed to smoke as do people in ordinary, day-to-day situations. Whether or not this is the case for any given laboratory study is not readily apparent due to a shortage of information on naturally occurring smoking patterns. As a step to remedy this problem, a naturalistic observational study was carried out to collect normative data on the smoking patterns of cigarette smokers in everyday settings.

Over a one year period, 200 smokers, in two cafeterias, a university student center, two restaurant lounges, and at a baseball park, were observed smoking one cigarette each, from light-up to extinguishing. The observations were unobtrusive, that is, the smokers were unaware they were being observed. The microphone on a microcassette recorder was tapped once for the onset of each puff, inhale and exhale, and for the offset of each exhale. The recordings were later timed with stopwatches to give a continuous running record of the various elements of the entire smoking episode. Records were also kept of the brand of the cigarette, of the sex and estimated age and weight' of the smoker, and a number of other smoker and situational variables.

The normative data are presented by way of a table of descriptive statistics and a visual display of the distribution of scores for each of eight smoking parameters: Number of puffs; mean durations for puffs, inhales, exhales, combined puff-inhale-exhales, and intervals between puffs; and total puff-inhale-exhale and episode durations. The data suggest that a number of laboratory studies have used smoking patterns which are at variance with how a majority of people actually smoke. This includes the smoking machine settings used to measure the Federal Trade Commission published tar and nicotine deliveries of commercially available cigarettes. The normative data presented in this study can be of help to laboratory investigators who want to improve the external validity of their studies by using smoking patterns that better reflect those of "real world" smoking.

Also, a number of results are consistent with the hypothesis that nicotine plays an important role in smoking; 199 out of the 200 smokers inhaled the smoke from the cigarette, the inhale-exhale patterns were what would be expected of smoking-to-get-nicotine, many smokers compensated for falling short on one measure of smoke exposure by scoring higher on another, for most smokers there was a minimum level for several measures of smoke exposure, and smokers of cigarettes with low nicotine ratings smoked differently than smokers of cigarettes with high nicotine ratings.

And lastly, smokers were classified, in terms of how they smoked a single cigarette, into four groups: "Light" smokers (13%), most of whom appeared to be novices; ''average" smokers (74%), who were very similar in smoking patterns; "heavy" smokers (9%), who scored slightly higher than the "average" smoker on one or more parameters; and "atypical" smokers (4%), who were extreme on one or more parameters.

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