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What Are the Odds That a Single Cigarette Leads to Daily Addiction?

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Experimenting with even one cigarette can lead to addiction

A new study found some startling results on what the odds are that experimenting with a single cigarette can lead to daily addiction.


According to a news release by Queen Mary University of London, a new study indicates that at least 61 per cent of people who try their first cigarette become—at least temporarily—addicted to smoking.

This news comes from a recent study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, from which 60.3 per cent of out of over 215,000 surveyed respondents said they had ever tried a cigarette, and among those, an estimated 68.9 per cent said had progressed to daily smoking.

According to the news release, study co-author and lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine stated, “This is the first time that the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented from such a large set of data.

“In the development of any addictive behavior, the move from experimentation to daily practice is an important landmark, as it implies that a recreational activity is turning into a compulsive need. We’ve found that the conversion rate from ‘first time smoker’ to ‘daily smoker’ is surprisingly high, which helps confirm the importance of preventing cigarette experimentation in the first place.”

The significance of the finding is that overall, smoking among the young has decreased; however, it has not been determined exactly why the reduction has occurred. The authors of the study believe that their results indicate that—in part—the reduction in smoking observed over the past 20 years is likely due to reduced experimentation with cigarettes among adolescents. In other words, anti-smoking measures to discourage smoking appear to be working.

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One comment in the news release that was equally striking concerning smoking addiction, is that when making a comparison with first-time vapers—e-cigarette smokers—that there may be more to smoking addiction than getting a nicotine fix.

“Concerns were expressed that e-cigarettes could be as addictive as conventional cigarettes, but this has not been the case. It is striking that very few non-smokers who try e-cigarettes become daily vapers, while such a large proportion on non-smokers who try conventional cigarettes become daily smokers. The presence of nicotine is clearly not the whole story,” stated Professor Hajek.

One of the persistent allegations made by opponents of the smoking industry over the years is that the makers of cigarettes intentionally lace the tobacco with additives that increase the addictive properties of cigarettes and smoking.

If you or someone you care about takes up smoking and is finding it difficult to quit, here is an informative article about a new smoking cessation program this year that can Double Your Chances of Quitting Smoking successfully.


Queen Mary University of London news release “At least three out of five people who try a cigarette become daily smokers”

"What proportion of people who try one cigarette become daily smokers? A meta analysis of representative surveys" Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2017 Max Birge, Stephen Duffy, Joanna Astrid Miler, Peter Hajek.

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