American journal of epidemiology

Validation of self-reported smokeless tobacco use by measurement of serum cotinine concentration among US adults.

PMID 25125690


Although investigators have assessed the relationship between self-reported cigarette smoking and biomarker levels, the validity of self-reported information on smokeless tobacco (SLT) use is uncertain. We used aggregated data from the 2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2007-2008, and 2009-2010 administrations of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to compare self-reported SLT use with serum concentrations of cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, among US adults aged ≥18 years. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was used to determine the optimal serum cotinine cutpoint for discriminating SLT users from nonusers of tobacco, and concordance analysis was used to compare self-reported SLT use with cotinine levels. Among the 30,298 adult respondents who completed the NHANES during 2003-2010, 418 reported having exclusively used SLT and no other type of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, or pipes) during the past 5 days, while 23,457 reported not using any tobacco. The optimal cotinine cutpoint for discriminating SLT users from non-tobacco users was 3.0 ng/mL (sensitivity=97.0%, specificity=93.0%), which was comparable to a revised cutpoint recommended for identifying adult cigarette smokers. Concordance with cotinine was 96.4% and 93.7% for self-reported SLT use and tobacco nonuse, respectively. These findings indicate that self-reported SLT use among adults correlates highly with serum cotinine levels and that the optimal cutpoint for minimizing misclassification of self-reported use is a serum cotinine concentration of 3.0 ng/mL.