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11 January 2018, 03:14 | Todd Saunders
A single cigarette can trigger smoking addiction, says study
"It is possible that somebody who is a lifetime non-smoker did try a cigarette when they were a kid but it didn't make any impression on them, and they forgot it or don't see that it is important enough to report", Peter Hajek, professor of psychology and Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Marys, told the Guardian.
"The finding provides strong support for the current efforts to reduce cigarette experimentation among adolescents", the new study's authors write.
Data from the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand found 60.3% of people had tried smoking and an estimated 68.9% of those progressed to a daily habit. 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.
A recent analysis of survey answers shows that more than two thirds of people from English speaking, developed countries went on to become daily smokers if they had ever tried a cigarette.
The public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says the latest study highlights the risks children run of entering into a life of addiction when they experiment with tobacco.
They looked at eight surveys conducted after 2000, with questions regarding trying a cigarette and smoking daily.
Of the responses, just over 60 percent had ever tried a cigarette, and among those, nearly 69 percent reported that they had gone on to become daily smokers.
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The different surveys used different methodologies and yielded different results, so the estimated 68.9 per cent "conversion rate" from experimentation to daily smoking has a margin of error (between 60.9 and 76.9 per cent).
For example, among the eight surveys, each revealed different percentages for those who became daily smokers, ranging from 52 percent in the U.S.to 82 percent in the United Kingdom, meaning the two-thirds estimate was a weighted average, not a standard proportion.
But Professor Hajek, who has provided consultancy for and received research funding from makers of stop-smoking medications, said this instant addiction did not appear to apply to e-cigarettes.
Good news is in both the US and England, the rate of first time smoking among young people is on a decline. "The presence of nicotine is clearly not the whole story".
There is still good news that shows a reduction of smoking in the last few years for people who live in the UK.
In 2016, 15.8% of adults smoked - equivalent to around 7.6 million people.
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