Smoking Addiction Can Begin With First Cigarette
> 7/6/2007 1:45:21 PM

The very first puff of a cigarette can change your life. This is not just propaganda from overprotective parents. According to a study in this month's issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, addiction can begin much earlier than previously suspected, starting as early as two days after the first cigarette.

A group of 1246 six-graders was followed for four years to find the onset of addiction. For the purposes of this study, addiction was defined as the loss of autonomy over tobacco and was measured with the Hooked on Nicotine Checklist, of which a previous study said, "the psychometric properties were excellent." 10% of the children lost full control of their usage within two days, and 25% were dependent within the first month. It is frightening that some youths are so susceptible to tobacco that they suffer withdrawal symptoms after the first use, craving the second cigarette and becoming distracted and fretful until they get it. The author of the study, Dr. Joseph DiFranza from the University of Massachusetts, explains why one cigarette can be an irrevocable slip:

"Laboratory experiments confirm that nicotine alters the structure and function of the brain within a day of the very first dose."

After tobacco dependence was detected, researchers interviewed the children and checked the concentration of salivary cotinine. The average was only 5.35 ng/mL, way below the threshold between active and passive smokers. This should serve as a clear warning that addiction can encircle you quickly and surreptitiously. Just because you do not smoke every day does not mean that you are not dependent. Once your tolerance increases, more and more nicotine will be needed to stave off withdrawal.

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