According to researchers at the Queen Mary University of London, trying out a single cigarette could raise the risk of taking up smoking as a habit for two thirds of the individuals. The study titled, “What Proportion of People Who Try One Cigarette Become Daily Smokers? A Meta-Analysis of Representative Surveys”, was published in the November 2017 issue of the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research and outlined data on smoking among over 215,000 people in surveys from UK, US, Australia and New Zealand.
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The team of researchers collected data from 216314 individuals in the eight surveys through the Global Health Data Exchange. They had initially accessed 2776 surverys globally and finally only 8 of these met their criteria and provided them with detailed and complete accessible data to analyze.
They noted that of the 60 percent of the participants who tried smoking for a single time, 68.9% went on to become full-fledged smokers who smoked daily. These eight surveys that they used were all involving English speaking populations and came between 2000 and 2016 from the developed nations. The number of people who took up smoking after their initial experiment is termed as “conversion rate” by the researchers.
Lead researcher Peter Hajek explained that this was the first time that such an information was revealed and it is worth a note that cigarettes do have the potential to become a habit after just a single experience in such a large number of individuals. He explained that the actual numbers may be bigger. This is mainly because the study included eight surveys, each of which have been conducted in different manners using different methodologies and study designs. The range percentages of people who took up smoking after a single smoking experience was between 60.9 percent in one survey to up to 76.9 percent in another survey.
An earlier study in 2007 had looked at 1246 sixth-grade students belonging to in six communities in Massachusetts. They had found that 10 percent of the participants became addicted to nicotine within two days of smoking their first cigarettes and a quarter were into the habit by a month. A single cigarette is not free from harm says the 2010 U.S. Surgeon General report and can raise the risk of acute health problems as well as long term risk of heart disease and heart attacks. According to Hajek only 19 percent of 11- to 15-year-olds in the UK have ever tried a cigarette and this means the number of kids getting hooked onto cigarettes has reduced significantly from the past. Among adults the number of smokers has gone down by 19.9 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Hajek declared at the end of the study that he is a consultant and has obtained funds for research from manufacturers of medications that assist in cessation of smoking. This could be conflict of interest feel some experts. However, it is undisputable that young people should be discouraged to try their first cigarettes and warned about the harmful effects of even a single light.