Aim. To compare screening performances of the Fagerstrom Tolerance Questionnaire (FTQ), the Fagerstrom test for nicotine dependence (FTND) and the Heavy Smoking Index (HSI) with a view to determining the optimum cutoff scores using biomarkers as standards. Background. Previous studies proposed inconsistent cutoff scores for the FTQ, the FTND as signalling nicotine dependence and these scores were established by applying diverse standards. Method. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analyses were used in pursuit of the study's objectives. Two hundred and forty-five male smokers were recruited in 2005 from among those attending public health stations in southern Taiwan. The three self-report measures of nicotine dependence were compared with the saliva cotinine and expired carbon monoxide (CO). The expired CO level was tested by means of a Micro Smokerlyzer, while salivary cotinine was analysed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results. The areas under the ROC curves for the FTQ, the FTND and the HSI were 0·71, 0·76 and 0·76 for the salivary cotinine and 0·71, 0·79 and 0·80 for the exhaled CO respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of the FTND and the HSI were slightly greater than those for the FTQ. The optimum cutoff scores for the FTQ, the FTND and the HSI as screening tools to establish nicotine dependence would be 5+, 4+ and 3+ respectively. Conclusion. The results indicate that the FTND and the HSI may be more efficacious than the FTQ in assessing nicotine dependence. Further research is needed to confirm these findings, especially among female smokers and for nicotine substitution trials. Relevance to clinical practice. To decrease tobacco-attributable morbidity and mortality, nurses and healthcare professionals need to implement effective smoking cessation interventions. The FTND and the HSI as well as their cutoff scores will be suitably used to assess nicotine dependence in these interventions.
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