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Tobacco Addiction and Our Children

Youths Can Become Quickly Addicted to Tobacco, Study Finds

WORCHESTER, MA -- August 10, 2007 -- Some youths may begin craving nicotine within just two days after inhaling smoke from their first cigarettes, according to a recent study (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Jul;161(7):704-10). The report also found that symptoms of tobacco dependence can occur even before smoking becomes a daily habit.

Through interviews, the researchers followed the smoking patterns of 1,246 sixth-grade students over a four-year period. They also took saliva samples to determine levels of cotinine. Cotinine is a break-down product of nicotine that is found in the blood of smokers and provides a measure of recent tobacco exposure.

Among 217 students who first inhaled cigarette smoke, 10% lost control over their tobacco use within two days, 25% lost control within 30 days and about half experienced tobacco cravings by the time they were smoking seven cigarettes a month. This contradicts conventional wisdom which assumes that both children and adults need to smoke at least five cigarettes a day for a long time period in order to become addicted to tobacco. Furthermore, cotinine levels were not that high in the recently addicted smokers, showing that even small nicotine levels can be harmful.

"Prudence dictates that youths must be warned that it may take only 1 cigarette to initiate a life-long dependence on tobacco," the study authors commented. "Even youth who smoke only a few cigarettes per month may need assistance to understand and overcome craving and withdrawal. This population should be the focus of future cessation research."

Tobacco and Disease

The major cause of lung cancer, smoking also causes cancers of the kidneys, stomach, cervix, and bladder as well as laryngeal, oral, and throat cancers. Tobacco contributes to chronic lung disease, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome and diabetes. Sadly, over 400,000 Americans die each year because of tobacco use.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of tobacco. According to the anti-smoking group, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 249,121 children became regular smokers so far this year, and 79,707 will die prematurely from their addiction.

If you are a smoker, you are setting a bad example for your children in addition to endangering your own health. Although quitting smoking may prove difficult, there are various community smoking cessation programs and other sources of help. For some additional information on the dangers of smoking, see nicotine addiction and side effects, the dangers of secondhand smoke and the dangers of third hand smoke.

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