At least 60% of people who try cigarettes once go on to become daily smokers, even if it’s temporary, research suggests.
Researchers collected data from the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand and found that of the 60.3% who had tried smoking, an estimated 68.9% went on to make it a daily habit, the BBC reports.
The study authors said that this means cigarettes have a “remarkable hold” even after just one experience, and added that this confirmed the importance of stopping people from experimenting with tobacco products.
The analysis was based on the answers of 215,000 respondents to eight surveys from 2000 to 2016 kept in the Global Health Data Exchange.
Peter Hajek, lead author from Queen Mary University of London, said that this is the first time a link has been established using such large data between first trying a cigarette and becoming a regular smoker. He said,
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.
Hajek added, “The UK is seeing a dramatic reduction in smoking at the moment and this tallies with recent findings that only 19% of 11- to 15-year-olds have ever tried a cigarette, so the good news is that we are on the right track.”
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said that this means there should be tighter government regulations on tobacco sales. She said, “The government is refusing to introduce licensing for tobacco retailers, even though there is strong support for this both from the public and retailers.”
Steve Brine, public health minister, added, “Britain is a world leader in tobacco control, and thanks to our tough action smoking rates in England are at an all-time low. We recently launched a new tobacco control plan to map the path to a smoke-free generation and are working to educate people about the risks and support them to quit for good.”
The study was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.