Most daily smokers get hooked after first cigarette, study finds

Faith Castro
January 11, 2018

As different surveys were included and analyzed, with different methods and styles, the researchers note that the percentage of people who become regular smokers had confidence intervals between 60 percent and 76.9 percent.

"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", said Peter Hajek, professor of clinical psychology and director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, who led the research.

However, Professor Hajek but refutes a link between daily smoking and vaping. In the United Kingdom, only 19 percent of 11 to 15 years olds reported having tried a cigarette, according to 2016 National Health Service, and in the US, only eight percent of high school students reported having smoked in the past 30 days.

At least two-thirds of those who try cigarettes go on to become daily smokers, even if only temporarily, research suggests.

In 2016, 15.8% of adults smoked - equivalent to around 7.6 million people. During the same period, 19.3% of 18-to-24-year-olds used to smoke compared to 25.8% in 2010.

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However, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health stated that government now should come up with strict regulation om tobacco sales.

While it is natural to see some variation between surveys, it is interesting to note that United Kingdom respondents were consistently more likely to say they developed a habit compared to those from the other three countries. "Yet the Government is refusing to introduce licencing for tobacco retailers, even though there is strong support for this both from the public and retailers".

The conversion rates (from one cigarette to daily smoking habit) varied quite substantially depending on the survey, the lowest being 50 percent (a USA survey) and the highest being 82 percent (a United Kingdom survey).

Taking just one drag of a cigarette is enough to get you hooked, a study has found. But, he noted, the influence of e-cigarettes should also be explored, since the decline in smoking rates in England has accelerated since the devices came onto the market.

The research team also noted that it's possible current smokers were less likely to take part in this survey than non or past smokers: A great part of the homeless population smokes and people with mental health problems, who are less likely to answer surveys.

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