Development of a Measure of the Latency to Needing a Cigarette

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Department of Psychiatry



Document Type



Tobacco Use Disorder; Nicotine; Smoking Cessation; Smoking; Substance Withdrawal Syndrome


Community Health | Preventive Medicine


Purpose: People addicted to smoking experience a recurrent physiologic need to smoke anytime when they go too long without smoking. Our purpose was to evaluate the reliability and concurrent validity of a measure of the time elapsed between completion of smoking one cigarette and experiencing the need to smoke another (the latency to needing a cigarette—LTNC). We also investigated the relationship between the LTNC and dependence-related symptoms.

Methods: An anonymous, self-administered survey was completed by 134 current adolescent smokers, and in a separate study, 32 smokers were asked to complete a retest.

Results: A frequent need to smoke was reported by 84.3% of the current smokers. Consistent with published case histories, the duration of the LTNC varied widely between the individuals. Among subjects who reported a regular need to smoke, 48% reported that their LTNC had shortened over time. The median LTNC among subjects who had smoked≥100 cigarettes (p < .001). Test-retest reliability was reported to be excellent (r = .85, p < .001). As expected, LTNC correlated moderately and inversely with daily cigarette consumption (ρ = −.53, p < .001). It also correlated inversely with cue-induced craving (ρ = −.64, p < .001), psychological reliance on cigarettes (ρ = −.43, p < .001), nicotine withdrawal (ρ = −.57, p < .001), and pleasure obtained from smoking (ρ = −.39, p < .001).

Conclusion: The data obtained in this study support the reliability and concurrent validity of the LTNC measure.

Rights and Permissions

Citation: W.W. Sanouri A. Ursprung, Paola Morello, Bernice Gershenson, Joseph R. DiFranza, Development of a Measure of the Latency to Needing a Cigarette. Journal of Adolescent Health. Available online 2 September 2010. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.07.011.