Research That Found Smoking One Cigarette Likely Leads To Addiction May Not Be Accurate

Author behind study that found 69 percent of first-time smokers become addicted to tobacco says data used was not consistent.

First time smokers may end up with lifetime habit says study.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Author behind study that found 69 percent of first-time smokers become addicted to tobacco says data used was not consistent.

Researchers in the U.K. have recently concluded that nearly 69 percent of people who try smoking one time go on to become daily smokers. However, while the findings may suggest the power of the habit can take over rather quickly, the study notes that the data is inconsistent and possibly incorrect.

For the study, researchers evaluated information related to questions answered by 215,000 participants in eight health surveys given in the U.K., the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The original survey data was collected over a 16-year period, between 2000 and 2016.

According to lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek, the rate of first-time cigarette users becoming addicted is “surprisingly high,” BBC News reported. The study shows the imperative necessity to prevent “cigarette experimentation in the first place,” especially among young people.

While this research shines a light on the potential addiction to cigarette smoking, the study’s lead researcher admits the data varied somewhat and could possibly be inaccurate. One of the cited surveys indicated only 52 percent of one-time cigarette users converted to daily smokers, while another survey found over 80 percent. To add to the mixed results, the researcher also noted some people may not accurately remember their smoking history. To overcome the inconsistency, the researchers only estimated the percentage for the published study.

“It is possible that somebody who is a lifetime non-smoker did try a cigarette when they were a kid but it didn’t make any impression on them, and they forgot it or don’t see that it is important enough to report,” said Hajek, according to a report from the Guardian.

Smoking rates continue to fall, particularly among young adults.
Smoking rates, especially among young adults, have been on the decline for years. Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

Recent studies on smoking show a steady decline in the habit. A 2016 U.S.-based survey found only 8 percent of young adults had smoked a cigarette in the previous month, a significant drop from 16 percent in 2011.

The downturn in smoking rates among young people is likely because the habit has become less stylish or “cool.” Tighter rules on sales as well as the success of anti-smoking campaigns have also impacted the number of smokers. Additionally, many trying to kick the habit by switching to alternative tobacco products like e-cigarettes is probably contributing to the current rate drop.

The recent study, performed by researchers from Queen Mary University, demonstrates the potential to become a life-long smoker but does not necessarily mean a tobacco addiction will occur after trying one cigarette. However, it does stress the importance of education and programs designed to prevent someone from starting in the first place.