Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Clinical and Population Health Research


Family Medicine and Community Health

First Thesis Advisor

Joseph R. DiFranza, MD


Addictive Behavior, Nicotine, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Psychometrics, Smoking, Tobacco Use Disorder


Dissertations, UMMS; Behavior, Addictive; Nicotine; Psychiatric Status Rating Scales; Psychometrics; Smoking; Tobacco Use Disorder


BACKGROUND: Of the 22 known measures of nicotine dependence (ND), none capture the overall disease severity of physical dependence alone. Instead, they capture constructs related to dependence, such as perceived risk, psychological addiction, smoker motivations, or smoking related behaviors, but none of the measures include only physical withdrawal symptoms to capture physical dependence on nicotine.

AIM: To develop a range of nicotine dependence measures that capture physical dependence on nicotine.

METHODS: The final measures were developed in a cross-sectional study conducted in three phases: 1) candidate item development through literature review and cognitive interviews, 2) developing and pre-testing the survey, and 3) survey administration and psychometric evaluation to validate three distinct measures. The final survey was conducted at four health clinics and three high schools. Psychometric tests used to select the final measure items included inter-item correlations, sensitivity analyses done by subgroup, item-total correlations, convergent validity tests, and confirmatory factor analysis. The final measures were evaluated using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), internal reliability, total score distributions, and convergent validity correlations. Relative validity analyses were also conducted using a ratio of F-Statistics to compare the ability of each new measure to differentiate dependent smokers as compared previous measures.

RESULTS: The final sample included 275 smokers ranging from 14 to 76 years old (mean=30.9, SD=16.2), who smoked an average of 11.5 cigarettes per day (range=0-50, SD=9.4). The sample was 86.5% white and 57.5% male. The three new measures developed included: 1) the 4-item Withdrawal-Induced Craving Scale (WICS) used to capture severity of craving, the most common physical withdrawal symptom; 2) the 12- item Nicotine Withdrawal Symptom Checklist (NWSC), which measures both overall disease severity and the severity of a comprehensive list of individual physical withdrawal symptoms including withdrawal-induced craving, anger, anxiety, depression, headache, insomnia, loss of focus, restlessness, and stress; and 3) the 6-item brief NWSC (NWSC-b), a short measure which only captures overall disease severity. All of the new measures exhibited a unidimensional factor structure loading highly on a single factor (thought to be physical dependence). They also correlated highly (over 0.6) and significantly (p<0.001) to a battery of convergent validity indices including four widely used nicotine dependence measures: Hooked on Nicotine Checklist (HONC), the Autonomy Over Tobacco Scale (AUTOS), the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND), and self-rated addiction.

CONCLUSION: The WICS, NWSC, and NWSC-b provide three distinct validated tools that can be used by researchers, clinicians, and educators to track the progression of physical dependence on nicotine across a range of smoking behaviors and histories.



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