A recent study into cigarette use suggests that the majority of people who try smoking could be hooked on tobacco after lighting up just one time.
Researchers from Queen Mary University, London, analyzed the results of eight surveys on smoking habits in English-speaking countries and found that a single cigarette is enough to spark a daily smoking habit – at least temporarily – in 69 percent of people. The results were published in the journal Nicotine and Research late last year.
Combined, the surveys (three from the US, three from the UK, one from Australia, and one from New Zealand) included responses from more than 216,000 individuals who had been selected at random to provide a representative sample of the general adult population of the countries involved.
On average, 60 percent of respondents admitted to having tried a cigarette.
The conversion rates (from one cigarette to daily smoking habit) varied quite substantially depending on the survey, the lowest being 50 percent (a US survey) and the highest being 82 percent (a UK survey). The average was 69 percent.
While it is natural to see some variation between surveys, it is interesting to note that UK respondents were consistently more likely to say they developed a habit compared to those from the other three countries.
As the researchers point out, one of the big problems with these types of surveys is the nature of self-reporting, which can be notoriously unreliable.
“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,” Peter Hajek, professor of psychology and Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Marys, told the Guardian.
“I think even if you assume there is a recall issue and other things, you are talking about more than a 50% [conversion rate].”
This figure might seem high but worldwide smoking rates are on the decline, especially among the young who are now more likely to pick up an e-cig over a traditional cigarette.
At 40 percent, Indonesia has the highest percentage of smokers in the world. In comparison, smokers make up 11.4 of the US population and 16.1 percent of the UK population.