Ann Occup Environ Med.  2020 ;32(1):e2. 10.35371/aoem.2020.32.e2.

Validity assessment of self-reported smoking status in firefighters using the urine cotinine test

  • 1Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Yeungnam University Hospital, Daegu, Korea.
  • 2Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, College of Medicine, Yeungnam University, Daegu, Korea.


In firefighters, smoking management is important because they are exposed to various harmful substances in their occupational environment. Accurate surveys of smoking status are essential to control tobacco use. The main disadvantage of self-report questionnaires, which are commonly used for investigating smoking status, is the possibility that the subjects' response are invalid. If the validity of firefighters' answers on smoking questionnaires is not adequate, different methods will be needed for investigating smoking status in firefighters.
This study was conducted on 445 male firefighters from 9 fire stations in Daegu (the city in South Korea) who visited a medical institution for medical checkup in 2016. The urine cotinine test strip (DCT-102; CLIAwaived Inc., cut-off value = 200 ng/mL) was used to classify the actual smoking status and to assess the validity of self-reported smoking status on questionnaires. The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) of the smoking questionnaires were analyzed. Subjects testing positive in the urine cotinine test (assumed the actual current smokers) were selected. The frequency at which actual current smokers were misclassified as current non-smokers by the questionnaire was calculated. Subjects' characteristics were analyzed for possible association with any discrepancy between self-reported smoking status and urine cotinine test results.
The smoking rates among firefighters surveyed using the smoking questionnaire and the urine cotinine test were 22.47% and 51.24%, respectively. Of the all subjects, 29.66% (n = 132) were misclassified. The sensitivity of the smoking questionnaire was 42.98%, the specificity was 99.08%, the PPV was 98.00%, and the NPV was 62.32%. In the 228 subjects classified as current actual smokers by the urine cotinine test, 57.02% (n = 130) were misclassified on the questionnaire. The misclassification rate increased with age. The degree of misclassification also increased when subjects had a history of disease.
In present study, the validity of the smoking questionnaire for firefighters was not suitable for investigating smoking status due to low sensitivity. To increase the validity of smoking status monitoring in firefighters, consideration of the various factors like survey environment, subjects' characteristics, and occupational factors is needed.


Firefighter; Smoking questionnaire; Validity; Self-report; Urine cotinine
Full Text Links
  • AOEM
export Copy
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Similar articles
Copyright © 2021 by Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors. All rights reserved.     E-mail: