Adolescents after their first cigarette very soon can experienced a loss of autonomy over tobacco according to a family health and community medicine specialist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
The specialist who studies tobacco dependence, described a typical teenage smoker, a fourteen year old girl who smoke only occasionally about three cigarettes a week.
She admitted to having failed at several efforts to quit. Each time she tried, cravings and feelings of irritability drove her back to smoking.
Moreover, according to the specialist, it has been long assumed that kids got addicted because they were smoking five or ten cigarettes a day.
And also, it has been known that children get the risk of being addicted after trying a cigarette just once.
The conclusion was based on the findings of a ten item checklist the specialist and his colleagues devised to help people of all ages determined whether they were hooked on nicotine.
Studies on a cohort of seventh graders found that every symptoms on this validated checklist had been experienced by at least one young person within weeks of starting to smoke, sometimes after the first cigarette. These results have been replicated many times.
In New Zealand, three national surveys involving 25,700 adolescents smokers who used this checklist revealed a loss of autonomy in 25% to 30% of young people who smoke their one and only cigarette during the preceding months.
Even occasional teenage smokers can experience the same symptoms of nicotine withdrawal that prompt adult smokers to light up again and again.
Recent studies have shown that the brain of an adolescent can become tolerant to nicotine after smoking fewer cigarettes than once a day, and it is tolerance that then drives them to smoke more often.
Teenage smoking had been declining steadily from peak levels reached in the mid 1990’s through 2004, but the rate of decline decelerated during that period.
About one quarter of young people experience a sensation of relaxation the first time they inhale from a cigarette and this sensation predicts continued smoking.
Further evidence of how easily youngsters become addicted to nicotine comes from studies of quit rates among adolescent smokers.
In one typical study, forty percent of adolescents who tried to quit relapsed in one week or less; only three percent remained abstinent a year later.
These findings suggest that new, more forceful strategies are needed to combat smoking by youngsters, which typically leads to a lifetime of smoking. More than ninety percent of adult smokers report that they started smoking as adolescents.
It is recommended that public health initiatives and awareness are most helpful. These include raising the price of cigarette, a strategy that helped reduce the smoking rate in New York City; a well enforced nationwide effort to get retailers to stop selling cigarettes to minors; a wider ban on smoking in public places, especially those frequented by teenagers like restaurants, video game parlors and bowling alleys; mass media campaigns including broad use by the states of the tobacco industry’s payout to sponsor anti smoking commercials; and pressure on the movie industry to make films smoking free.
Parents are urged including those who smoke themselves, to emphasize to their children that it’s a huge mistake to start smoking. If they never start, they’ll never have to worry about quitting.