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Majority who experiment with cigarettes go on to become smokers, study finds

Researchers said the study shows the “remarkable hold” cigarettes have.

Two-thirds of people who try a cigarette go on to become daily smokers, a new study has found.

Researchers found that 69% of people who had ever tried a cigarette had gone on to become a daily smoker, even if just temporarily.

The authors from Queen Mary University of London said the study showed “the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience”.

They said that the study, published in the journal Nicotine And Tobacco Research, provides support for reducing cigarette experimentation among teenagers.

Researchers searched global databases for studies examining cigarette experimentation and smoking habits, including research from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Data from eight surveys – with information on more than 215,000 people – were included for analysis.

  • In 2016, 15.8% of British adults smoked which equates to around 7.6 million people.
  • Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of adults who smoke with 18.1% being smokers, this compares to 15.5% of adults in England, 16.9% in Wales and 17.7% in Scotland.
  • Across the UK, more men are smokers than women, with 17.7% of men being current smokers compared to 14.1% of women.
  • In 2016, British male smokers smoked an average of 12 cigarettes a day while female smokers each smoked an average of 11 cigarettes each day.
  • Around 2.9 million Britons were e-cigarette users in 2016.

The team found that 60.3% of respondents had said they had ever tried a cigarette, and among those, 68.9% said they had progressed to daily smoking.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek, from Queen Mary, said: “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.

“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.

“The UK is seeing a dramatic reduction in smoking at the moment and this tallies with recent findings that only 19% of 11 to 15-year-olds have ever tried a cigarette, so the good news is that we are on the right track.”

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