Symptoms of Nicotine Addiction Begin Long Before Dependency
> 8/2/2006 1:21:53 PM

Despite its widely documented status as the number one cause of preventable death worldwide, fifty million Americans smoke cigarettes regularly, and most begin before age eighteen. A common perception posits that experimentation is separate from addiction, but a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates that the signs of physical and psychological addiction often manifest themselves months or years before the subject becomes a daily smoker. The study charted the patterns of smoking-related behaviors among Canadian students for five years, beginning in 7th grade.

Results showed kids who tried cigarettes took about 2.5 months to smoke a whole cigarette, and around this point they showed signs of mental addiction. By 4.5 months, they had cravings and by 5.4 months, they were physically addicted. Around two years later, the kids who had taken up smoking had become daily smokers, and by three and one-third years, they were dependent on tobacco. Researchers say this shows the importance of getting to kids after that first puff in order to head them off on a path of full addiction.

The fact that tobacco is aggressively marketed to children and that the developing brain is more susceptible to addiction has long been cause for alarm. Fortunately , such widespread concern helped to bring about such developments as the end of Joe Camel. This new research only reinforces the fact that discouraging tobacco use among children will drastically reduce the number of related deaths nationwide. Beyond publicizing such studies and making cigarettes more difficult for teens to obtain, health advocates and government organizations need to take further steps to reduce the appeal and, consequently, the prevalence of smoking among young people. Many believe that experimenting with cigarettes will not lead to long-term addiction, but virtually all scientific study indicates otherwise.

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