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One Cigarette a Month Can Hook a Teen

Most teens who try cigarettes have no intention of becoming addicted.  Smoking is just something they do for fun when they are hanging out with their friends.   And if you asked, they would probably tell you that while they are aware the health hazards related to smoking, they personally have nothing to worry about.  They are casual smokers who don’t light up enough to become addicted.

Or so they think.  According to a new study,  just how much it takes to turn that casual, just-for-fun smoker into a full-blown addict may be far less than previously thought. 

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, tracked the smoking habits of over 1,200 sixth-graders for four years.  While the majority avoided smoking altogether, a third reported inhaling from cigarettes.  Of those who smoked, two-thirds said they did so at least once a month.  Two years into the study, one third of those casual smokers found themselves addicted with little control over their habit.  Even if they still only smoked once a month, they felt a need to smoke once a month.

Dr. Joseph DiFranza, co-author of the study, says that it is possible to be addicted and not even know it.

“What happens is when you first get addicted, one cigarette a month or one cigarette a week is enough to keep your addiction satisfied.  But as time goes by, you have to smoke cigarettes more and more frequently. So people may be addicted for more than a year before they feel the need to smoke a cigarette every day.”

And that’s when the fun begins!  The study found that three or more years later, one-fourth of the so-called casual smokers experienced withdrawal symptoms when they tried to stop smoking.

For information on how to prevent your kids from ever trying cigarettes, check out Life Learning Today.  There you will find practical tips that go beyond “just say no.”  And if your child is already lighting up, the Centers for Disease Control’s How to Quit Smoking page is a great place to find links to resources designed to help smokers of all ages kick the habit for good.

Image: isabel bloedwater/Flickr

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