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Introduction: Misreporting smoking behavior is common among younger smokers participating in clinical trials for smoking cessation. This study focused on the prevalence of and factors associated with adolescent misreporting of smoking behaviors within the context of a randomized clinical trial for smoking cessation.

Methods: Adolescent smokers (N = 129) participated in a randomized clinical trial that compared two brief interventions for smoking cessation. Following the final (6-month) follow-up, a confidential, self-administered exit questionnaire examined the extent to which participants admitted to having misreported smoking quantity, frequency and/or consequences during the study. Factors associated with under- and over-reporting were compared to accurate-reporting.

Results: One in 4 adolescent smokers (25.6%) admitted to under-reporting during the study and 14.7% admitted to over-reporting; 10.9% of the adolescents admitted to both under- and over-reporting. Rates of admitted misreporting did not differ between treatment conditions or recruitment site. Compared to accurate-reporting, under- and over-reporting were significantly associated with home smoking environment and the belief among adolescents that the baseline interviewer wanted them to report smoking more or less than they actually smoked. Compared to accurate reporters, over-reporters were more likely to be non-White and to report being concerned with the confidentiality of their responses.

Conclusions: A post-study confidential debriefing questionnaire can be a useful tool for estimating rates of misreporting and examining whether potential differences in misreporting might bias the interpretation of treatment effects. Future studies are needed to thoroughly examine potentially addressable reasons that adolescents misreport their smoking behavior and to develop methods for reducing misreporting.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.