Lead author Nikole Cronk, assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri, said among college students, the rate of reported smokers spikes to nearly 30 percent.
The majority of lifelong smokers begin smoking before the age of 24, Cronk said.
"Students are using social events and work as cues to remind them about smoking," Cronk said in a statement. "This research is important for those working with college students to recognize when smoking is happening at its highest levels. Targeting interventions during those periods and prior to frequent smoking events would have the maximum impact on student smoking prevention."
Cronk's study is part of a larger research project, which focuses on a behavioral intervention approach known as motivational interviewing.
While a traditional intervention approach tells participants how to behave, motivational interviewing elicits motivation from participants to help them decide on their own whether to continue a behavior. For example, a clinician interviews a participant to discover what's important to that individual and how a behavior, such as smoking, might fit with that person's goals and values.
The findings were published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.