Compulsion to smoke can lie dormant for three years
May 25, 2006 - 1:26:37 PM

If you are a teen and smoked just one cigarette at the age of 11 you may take up smoking within the next few years again, says a study.

The compulsion to smoke after having tried just one cigarette can lie dormant for more than three years, indicating a 'sleeper effect', says the study that looked into teenage smoking habits, according to Newswise wire.

The researchers studied almost 6,000 eleven- to 16-year-olds attending 36 representative schools across south London and measured their salivary cotinine, a biochemical indicator of nicotine intake.

By the age of 14, pupils who had given smoking a go just once at the age of 11 were twice as likely to have become regular smokers as their peers who had not tried out smoking. This was the case even after a gap of three years or more, the researchers found.

These findings held true irrespective of gender, ethnicity, and deprivation, all factors known to influence the likelihood of taking up smoking, revealed the study published in the journal Tobacco Control.

Other influential factors, such as whether the parents smoked or whether the pupil was a bit of a rebel, also had no bearing on the results.

Just one cigarette could change the reward pathway in the brain, which might then be activated by triggers, such as stress, depression, or the school environment, suggest the researchers.

Alternatively, trying out a cigarette might simply break down the social barriers that prevent teens from smoking, such as fear of displeasing adults or insecurities around how to smoke, they say.

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