Two in three people who try one cigarette become daily smokers

Posted by DrMendelsohn on 5 November, 2017

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Over two thirds of people who try one cigarette become, at least temporarily, daily smokers according to a recent large study.
The study examined data from 8 national surveys of 216,314 people and found that overall 69% of those who experimented with one cigarette convert to daily smoking.
In the one Australian survey included, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2013, the ‘conversion rate’ was 61.5%.
As expected, ‘early experimenters are more likely to progress to heavier smoking and dependence’.

Adolescents more vulnerable to nicotine

In Australia, the average age of having the first cigarette is 16.3 years. About 7 in 10 Australian smokers smoke their first cigarette by the age of 18 years (National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016).

Young people vastly underestimate the addictive potential of nicotine. They commonly believe that nicotine dependence does not develop until after a number of years of smoking, or only once smokers reach adulthood. However, adolescents are more vulnerable to nicotine dependence than adults and develop dependence more quickly and from lower levels of nicotine intake.

Symptoms of nicotine dependence can develop within days of first exposure. Among teenagers who lose control over their tobacco use, 10% do so within two days of inhaling from a cigarette for the first time and 25% within 30 days. Symptoms of nicotine dependence develop in 70% of adolescents before they are smoking daily.
The authors conclude that ‘The finding provides strong support for the current efforts to reduce cigarette experimentation among adolescents.’

The best advice for adolescents is to not even have one puff

The study

Birge M, Hajek P. What proportion of people who try one cigarette become daily smokers A meta analysis of representative surveys. Nicotine Tob Res 2017

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