Published On: Wed, Jan 10th, 2018

Cigarette warning: Two thirds of people who try one become full time smokers


Scientists pooled data from previous studies involving more than 215,000 people from across the world to show an estimated 70 per cent progressed to daily smoking after taking their first puff.

Professor Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University, London, said: “This is the first time the remarkable hold cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented from such a large set of data.

“In the development of any addictive behaviour, the move from experimentation to daily practice is an important landmark, as it implies a recreational activity is turning into a compulsive need.

“We have found 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.”

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show one in every five 18 to 24-year-olds in Britain is a smoker. 

About 70 per cent of this age group has never started smoking – up from 46 per cent in 1974 when records began.

Among 24 to 35-year-olds, the age group most likely to smoke, about 60 per cent have never taken up the habit – up from 35 per cent in 1974. 

Last year a study of 44,000 Canadian 14 to 18-year-olds found those who use e-cigarettes are nearly twice as likely to go on to become regular tobacco smokers fuelling fears that so-called ‘vaping’ may lead to regular smoking.

Scientists warned that e-cigs may help to ‘re-normalise’ smoking after years of a growing taboo about the habit.

Health experts in Britain view them as a crucial tool in the fight against tobacco and Public Health England has endorsed the devices despite concerns about safety.

In 2016, 15.8 per cent of British adults smoked, around 7.6million people. Across the UK more men are smokers than women.

Prof Hajek said: “It is striking that very few non-smokers who try e-cigarettes become daily vapers, while such a large proportion of non-smokers who try conventional cigarettes become daily smokers. The presence of nicotine is clearly not the whole story.”


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