Definitions of smoking status

Definitions of ‘currently smoking’, ‘ex-smoking’ and ‘never smoked’, and how to code these terms in patient records

Currently smoking

‘Currently smoking’ refers to someone who has smoked more than 100 cigarettes (including hand rolled cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos etc) in their lifetime and has smoked in the last 28 days.

Note that this definition may underestimate the prevalence of smoking in young people, and smoking status should be checked regularly in those aged under 30.


‘Ex-smoking’ refers to someone who has smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime but has not smoked in the last 28 days. The international convention is to treat someone as an ex-smoker once they have been smokefree for one month (at least 28 days).

Statistically, the risk of relapse reduces dramatically after 12 months. For this reason, it is common for clinicians helping patients to quit to distinguish between ex-smoking less than 12 months and ex-smoking more than 12 months.

Never smoked

‘Never smoked’ is someone who has not smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and does not currently smoke.

Recording smoking status

Health providers should record smoking status using the SNOMED CT codes listed below for the defined terms. SNOMED CT is our standard for clinical terminology and replaces the Read codes used previously.

SNOMED CT term SNOMED CT code Read code
Currently smoking 77176002 137R.
Ex-smoking for less than 1 year 735128000 137K.
Ex-smoking for more than 1 year 48031000119106 137S.
Never smoked 266919005 1371

The SNOMED CT terms and codes are available in the SNOMED CT NZ Edition and our SNOMED CT terminology service.

Non-daily, occasional and social smoking

People who smoke may respond in all kind of ways when asked if they smoke. Occasional smoking might mean once a week, in which case they would be defined as current smokers (assuming they have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime).

People who define themselves as social smokers often only smoke when they are out socialising, but they may do this at least once a week. So you might need to ask about smoking frequency to code correctly.

We’ve provided some scenarios below just to check the definitions. See if these are helpful.

Scenarios for coding non-daily, occasional and social smokers
Scenario Code as
50-year-old, currently smoking 10 cigs per day, recently cut down from 20 Currently smoking
30-year-old ‘social smoker’ – smoking at most on 4 days per month, up to 5 cigarettes on each occasion. Has been smoking like this for 10 years. Currently smoking
17-year-old, tried smoking 2 cigarettes Never smoked
25-year-old, smoked occasionally at university, but never more than 100 cigarettes Never smoked
40-year-old, used to smoke 20 cigs per day, gave up 5 years ago Ex-smoking for more than 1 year
30-year-old, smoked socially at university (more than 100 cigarettes), but has not smoked for the last 6 years Ex-smoking for more than 1 year
36-year-old who admits to smoking a cigar ‘every now and then’ (less than once a year) and has never smoked cigarettes. Never smoked
60-year-old, smokes the ‘occasional cigar’ (2–3 times per month), gave up smoking cigarettes daily 3 years ago. Currently smoking
32-year-old, ‘occasional smoker’ (smokes 1–2 times per year, last cigarette 6 months ago). Has not smoked more than 20 packets in lifetime. Ex-smoking for less than 1 year
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