• Open Access

Empirical support for a multi-dimensional model of sensations experienced by youth during their initial smoking episodes


Chris G. Richardson, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, 5804 Fairview Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z3, Canada. E-mail: chris.richardson@ubc.ca


Aims  To examine the dimensionality of sensations experienced during initial tobacco smoking.

Design  Cross-sectional survey.

Setting  Thirteen secondary schools located in British Columbia, Canada.

Participants  Data from 1187 adolescents who responded ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Have you ever tried cigarette smoking, even one or two puffs?’.

Measurements  Participants answered questions about their demographic characteristics, tobacco smoking history and sensations experienced during their initial smoking episodes.

Findings  The sensations appear to represent the following three separate but modestly correlated dimensions: a pleasant dimension defined by feeling good and relaxed; an unpleasant dimension defined by coughing, feeling sick and nervous; and a ‘buzz’ dimension defined by feeling high and dizzy. The three factors made statistically significant contributions to the prediction of transition to regular smoking (defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in one's life-time) after adjusting for age, sex and age at first puff.

Conclusions  The results suggest that three relatively distinct physiological systems appear to explain the relationship between initial smoking sensations and probability of becoming a regular smoker. Researchers examining sensations experienced during initial tobacco smoking episodes should consider using a three-dimensional profile of symptoms composed of pleasant, unpleasant and buzz dimensions.