Study: 3 in 5 people who try a cigarette once become daily smokers

LONDON — You just may have been destined to become a daily cigarette smoker that time you took your first drag from your friend’s Newport back in college. That’s because a new study finds that at least three out of every five people who simply try cigarettes once wind up becoming daily smokers.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London pored over the Global Health Data Exchange in search of relevant surveys that had questions about trying cigarettes and smoking on a daily basis. Of the 215,000 responses they discovered from related questionnaires spanning numerous countries, the team found that about 60 percent of respondents said they’d tried a cigarette at some point. Of those people, nearly 69 percent went on to become daily smokers.

Man smoking cigarette
Just one more reason to support tougher tobacco laws: A new study finds that three in five people who have tried smoking a cigarette go on to become habitual smokers. (Photo by Sajjad Zabihi on Unsplash)

Since an assortment of surveys with different methodologies and various results were used, the authors estimate a margin of error of about eight percent.

“In the development of any addictive behaviour, 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,”  says lead researcher Peter Hajek in a news release.

Hajek touts the research as the first time that a large-scale study has shown the impact of an individual’s first experience smoking cigarettes in developing the unhealthy habit.

There has been a dramatic decrease in smokers in the United Kingdom in recent years, which researchers attribute to reduced experimentation with cigarettes in kids aged 11 to 15. While the researchers had concerns over e-cigarettes being just as addictive as normal cigarettes, data showed that very few non-smokers who try e-cigarettes become regular vapers.

“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,” says Hajek.

The full study was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.