Evidence of telescoping in regular smoking onset age

Brianna C. Bright, Julia N. Soulakova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Introduction: We examined the evidence of telescoping bias in self-reports of regular smoking onset age. Since the exact year of the onset was not available, the discrepancy (termed shift) in self-reports was explored. The study was targeted at establishing the relationships between the prevalence and the magnitude of shifting and respondent and survey characteristics and identifying the key factors contributing to forward and backward shifting. Methods: The 2002-2003 Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey was administered using phone and in-person interviews to the same respondents in 2002 and 2003. The regular smoking onset age, reported by current and former smokers during both years, was used. All statistical analyses incorporated replicate weights to adjust for the complex survey design. Results: In our sample, about 31.6% (31.8%) of respondents forwardly (backwardly) shifted the smoking onset age, with the mean magnitude of discrepancy about 2.7 years (both directions). The elapsed time since the onset was shown to be the most important considered predictor of prevalence of shifting. The prevalence of forward (backward) shifting tends to increase (decrease) as elapsed time increases. Furthermore, the discrepancy in forwardly shifted responses tends to increase, on average, with elapsed time. Conclusions: The findings indicate that both forward and backward shifting may be prevalent in reports on smoking onset age. The extent of shifting depends on elapsed time since the onset (and therefore, the respondent's age) and other respondent and survey characteristics. The findings are consistent with presence of both forward and backward telescoping biases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberntt220
Pages (from-to)717-724
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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