Study: Nicotine Addiction Can Be Immediate

ByABC News
September 12, 2000, 8:06 AM

L O N D O N, Sept. 12 -- Scientists have confirmed a suspicion held by somesmokers but never proven: It could take just a few cigarettes tobecome addicted.

Some 12- and 13-year-olds showed evidence of addiction withindays of their first cigarette, according to research reported thisweek in the British Medical Association journal Tobacco Control.

Theres been a suspicion that many people become addicted veryquickly, but this is really the first hard evidence that weve hadthat this occurs, said Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the NicotineDependency Unit at the Mayo Clinic.

Experts have tried for years to determine how long people haveto smoke before becoming addicted, and the best answer to datehad been 1-2 years, said Hurt, who was not involved in the study.

Addiction Biology

He said the findings will help scientists better understand thebiology of nicotine addiction and lend more plausibility to theidea that some people may be more genetically susceptible to itthan others.

The really important implication of this study is that we haveto warn kids that you cant just fool around with cigarettes orexperiment with cigarettes for a few weeks and then give it up,said Dr. Joseph DiFranza, who lead the research at the Universityof Massachusetts. If you fool around with cigarettes for a fewweeks, you may be addicted for life.

The study, conducted in 1998, followed 681 12- to 13-year-oldsin central Massachusetts for a year and tracked their smokinghabits.

The researchers did not label any of them addicted because thestandard definition of nicotine dependence assumes addiction cannothappen without prolonged heavy smoking. The scientists simplyrecorded symptoms that indicate addiction.

Addiction Symptoms

These include cravings, needing more to get the same buzz,withdrawal symptoms when not smoking, feeling addicted to tobaccoand loss of control over the number of cigarettes smoked or theduration of smoking.