A global study suggests that 69% of the people who tried smoking became daily smokers, even if just for a while.
Over 60% of the adult respondents answered ‘yes‘ when asked if they ever had a cigarette. Out of this whopping percent, over 2/3 started smoking daily for different periods of time. These numbers make the need to prevent teenage smoking even more pressing.
Tobacco’s deceiving story
The irony lies in tobacco’s history. During a 1585 expedition, astronomer Thomas Harriot relayed that tobacco “openeth all the pores and passages of the body” so that the natives’ “bodies are notably preserved in health, and know not many grievous diseases, wherewithall we in England are often times afflicted.”
People genuinely believed in the therapeutical and spiritual properties of tobacco. It’s quite understandable why smoking gained such popularity worldwide. James Albert Bonsack, the American who invented the first cigarette rolling machine back in 1880, also “helped” a lot in making smoking fashionable and accessible.
Results of the meta-analysis encourage anti-smoking campaigns
The paper was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research and gathered data from surveys between 2000 and 2016. These surveys involved 215,000 English speakers from the UK, US, Australia and New Zeeland.
Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London stated in a press release that it was the first time that “the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented from such a large set of data.”
“In the development of any addictive behavior, 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”, he added.
Keeping in mind the introduction of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco in this past few years, new questions arise. Has classical smoking come to an end? Are the new smoking alternatives actually reducing regular tobacco use?
Professor Peter Hajek says: “Concerns were expressed that e-cigarettes could be as addictive as conventional cigarettes, but this has not been the case. 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.”
All in all, this study brings good news. The UK has recorded a dramatic reduction in smoking at the moment and this corresponds with findings that only 19 percent of 11-15-year-olds have ever tried a cigarette. The world, even just for a fleeting moment, seems to be on the right tracks.