Delay discounting by adolescents experimenting with cigarette smoking


Brady Reynolds, Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, 700 Children's Drive, Columbus, OH 43205, USA. E-mail:


Aims  To evaluate delay discounting and self-reported impulsive behavior in a sample of adolescents experimenting with cigarette smoking compared with adolescents who had never smoked or were daily smokers.

Design  A cross-sectional design was used to compare smoking-status groups.

Setting  Columbus, Ohio, a city of approximately 780 000 people.

Participants  A sample of 141 male and female adolescents with a mean age of 15.37 (standard deviation = 1.09) years.

Measurements  Primary measures included a computerized assessment of delay discounting, a self-report assessment of impulsivity [Barratt Impulsiveness Scale—adolescent (BIS-11-A)] and verifications of cigarette smoking status (breath carbon monoxide and urinary cotinine level).

Findings  Smokers discounted more by delay and had higher impulsivity scores than non-smokers. Experimenters had scores intermediate to those of smokers and non-smokers on both measures. In some analyses the difference between experimenters and non-smokers was significant, with experimenters showing greater delay discounting, but in no case did experimenters differ significantly from the smokers.

Conclusions  Young people who experiment with cigarettes appear to be similar to those who smoke regularly in terms of tendency to discount future gains and report impulsive tendencies, and generally higher in these traits than non-smokers.