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A Single Cigarette Can Lead to Daily Smoking

By Lisa Schulmeister, MN, RN, FAAN
Cigarette smoking is known to cause cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth and throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, colon, and rectum. Because the nicotine contained in cigarettes is highly addictive, smoking cessation often is difficult. Public education includes the advice to not start smoking since it is so difficult to quit smoking; however, little information exists on how often a first cigarette leads to daily smoking.

Researchers in London, England searched the Global Health Data Exchange to locate studies on smoking initiation. They identified 44 surveys that included data on what they termed the “conversion rate” from initial experimentation with a single cigarette to daily smoking.

Eight of the 44 surveys were able to provide needed data for analysis. Collectively, 216,314 respondents indicated that they had tried a cigarette, and 69% stated they subsequently started smoking cigarettes daily. The researchers concluded that these findings have implications for potential smokers, especially teenagers.

Smoking prevention programs need to include warnings that the risk of “trying” a cigarette can lead to daily smoking, and that 69% of people in survey data who have tried a cigarette became smokers.
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