Using the emergency department to investigate smoking in young adults

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Annals of epidemiology


PURPOSE: Smoking in young adults identifies the population at risk for future tobacco-related disease. We investigated smoking in a young adult population and within high-risk groups using emergency department (ED) data in a metropolitan area. METHODS: Using the electronic health record, we performed a retrospective study of smoking in adults aged 18-30 years presenting to the ED. RESULTS: Smoking status was available for 55,777 subjects (90.9% of the total ED cohort); 60.8% were women, 55.0% were black, 35.3% were white, and 8.1% were Hispanic; 34.4% were uninsured. Most smokers used cigarettes (95.1%). Prevalence of current smoking was 21.7% for women and 42.5% for men. The electronic health record contains data about diagnosis and social history that can be used to investigate smoking status for high-risk populations. Smoking prevalence was highest for substance use disorder (58.0%), psychiatric illness (41.3%) and alcohol use (39.1%), and lowest for pregnancy (13.5%). In multivariable analyses, male gender, white race, lack of health insurance, alcohol use, and illicit drug use were independently associated with smoking. Smoking risk among alcohol and drug users varied by gender, race, and/or age. CONCLUSIONS: The ED provides access to a large, demographically diverse population, and supports investigation of smoking risk in young adults.

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