All it takes is one
Up to now, it
was thought it took a few years for smokers to become addicted, but the latest research
shows addiction takes place in days
LONDON -- Scientists have
confirmed a suspicion held by some smokers but never proven: it could take just one
cigarette to become addicted.
Experts have tried for
years to determine how long people have to smoke before becoming addicted, said Dr Richard
Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependency Unit at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.
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"The best answer to
date has been one to two years," said Dr Hurt, who was not involved with the latest
research. "There's been a suspicion that many people become addicted very quickly,
but this is really the first hard evidence that we've had that this occurs."
Research reported in the
British Medical Association journal, Tobacco Control, found that several 12- and
13-year-olds showed evidence of addiction within a few days of their first cigarette.
Dr Hurt said the findings
would help scientists better understand the biology of nicotine addiction and lend more
plausibility to the idea that some people may be more susceptible genetically to it than
The study was conducted by
scientists at the University of Massachusetts in 1998. The experts followed 681 teenagers
aged 12 and 13 from seven schools incentral Massachusetts for a year and tracked their
The researchers did not
label any of them as addicted because the standard definition of nicotine dependence
assumes that addiction cannot happen without prolonged heavy smoking.
The scientists simply
recorded symptoms that indicate addiction. Symptoms include cravings, needing to smoke
more to get the same buzz, withdrawal symptoms when not smoking, feeling addicted to
tobacco and loss of control over the number of cigarettes smoked or the duration of
A total of 95 teens said
they had started smoking occasionally - at least one cigarette a month - during the study.
The scientists found that
63 per cent of them had one or more symptoms of addiction.
A quarter of those with
symptoms got them within two weeks of starting to smoke and several said their symptoms
began within a few days.
Sixty-two per cent said
they had their first symptom before they began smoking every day, or that the symptoms had
made them start smoking daily.
"The really important
implication of this study is that we have to warn kids that you can't just fool around
with cigarettes or experiment with them for a few weeks and then give them up," said
Dr Joseph DiFranza, who led the research team.
"If you fool around
with cigarettes for a few weeks, you may be addicted for life." - AP.