The Centers for Disease Control reports that roughly 36.5 million US adults smoke cigarettes and more than 16 million people in the United States have a smoking-related disease.
Even though smoking rates are going down, thanks to higher taxes, packaging and marketing tactics, smoking-related diseases and deaths are still a major health concern worldwide.
A new study, conducted by researchers from the Queen Mary University of London, found that at least 61 percent of people who try a cigarette become daily smokers, at least temporarily.
The main goal of the study was to show how prevalent experimenting with smoking during early adolescence and adulthood is in developing a smoking addiction.
The researchers examined datasets from eight surveys collected from the Global Health Data Exchange that dealt with smoking and trying a cigarette for the first time.
The surveys took place in the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand and had combined over 215,000 survey respondents.
“This is 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,” said Professor Peter Hajek, the lead researcher.
After analyzing the data, the researchers’ calculations showed that 60.3 percent of the survey respondents said they had tried a cigarette and of those, nearly 69 percent admitted to transitioning to a daily smoking habit.
However, because of the diverse nature of the data and the different methodologies employed by each survey, the results come with a wide margin of error.
Even with the study’s limitations, the research shows experimenting early on with cigarettes is a major factor in addiction later in life.
“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,” said Hajek. “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.”