Korean American emerging adult (KAEA) smokers represent a culturally and developmentally unique population constituted of primarily light, intermittent smokers. Sociocultural contexts might play an important role in contributing to instances of acute cigarette craving and motivation to smoke in this population; yet, research testing such hypotheses is scant. The current study tests whether and how social contexts are associated with the craving among KAEA smokers.
Seventy-eight daily KAEA smokers, who smoke 4 + cigs/day, participated in a 7-day ecological momentary assessment (EMA), in which participants responded to both signal-contingent (random) and event-contingent (smoking) prompts to answer surveys on their mobile phones (prompt-level n = 1377; 603 random + 774 smoking prompts). Nicotine dependence was measured at baseline; cigarette craving, negative affect, presence of others smoking, social contexts were measured with EMA.
Modeling of within-participant variation and covariation showed that being with Korean friends (vs. alone) was associated with increased levels of momentary craving. This association between Korean friends and craving disappeared when adjusted for presence of others smoking, which was a strong predictor of momentary craving. The positive association between Korean friends and craving was amplified immediately prior to smoking (vs. non-smoking random) instances.
Being with Korean friends might serve as a culturally-specific salient smoking cue, which might have been learned throughout their smoking history. Our data also showed that increased craving associated with Korean friends may represent social settings that primarily involve cigarette smoking. Given our findings on cigarette use among KAEA's social network, addressing cigarette use as a group behavior might be a fruitful intervention strategy.