Teens get Addicted Easily to Cigarettes

By Maggie Fox-Reuters

WASHINGTON – Teens who tried cigarettes got hooked within weeks of starting — a surprising result that contradicts the common wisdom that it takes years to become addicted, researchers said Wednesday. And it only took a few cigarettes a day to get them dependent on nicotine, the international team of researchers found.

”I expected that some kids would get hooked quickly, but I thought that the average kid would have to smoke for a few years to get hooked,” Dr. Joseph DiFranza of the University of Massachusetts, whose study is published in the September issue of the journal Tobacco Control, said in a statement. ”I thought that kids who got hooked quickly would be the exception to the rule. As it turned out, the kids who did not get hooked quickly were the exception,” he added.

”This study has overturned a lot of conventional wisdom.”

It only took an average of three weeks for a teen-age girl to become addicted to tobacco, even if she smoked only occasionally, the study found. Half of all boys who got hooked were firmly addicted within six months. Scientists already know that addiction to smoking has a genetic component. Some people try cigarettes and never get hooked. The mechanism seems to be similar to that involved in addiction to drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Some researchers also believe that, because the brains of adolescents are still developing, they can become addicted more quickly.


The teen smokers they studied were only smoking, on average, two cigarettes a day, one day a week. Previous research has shown that it takes the average person who starts smoking as a teen-ager 18 years to break the habit for good.

The study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, involved 679 seventh-grade students, typically aged 12 and 13, who were followed for 30 months. The students were interviewed repeatedly during that time.

 ACT’s entire staff has experience helping teenagers get over bad habits.

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Dr. Gnap

Dr. Gnap is a family practice physician and behavioral medicine specialist in suburban Chicago.  Dr. Gnap developed the Inner Control™ Program in 1970 and has worked with thousands of people to improve and correct medical, emotional, behavioral and learning problems including performance.  He started the Inner Control program because so many patients asked, “what more can be done along with traditional treatment methods?”

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