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Study: A Few Cigarettes Can Hook You For Life

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON –

Scientists have confirmed a suspicion held by some smokers but never proven: It could take just a few cigarettes to become addicted. Some 12 and 13 year-olds showed evidence of addiction within days of their first cigarette, according to research reported this week in the British Medical Association journal Tobacco control.

"There’s been a suspicion that many people become addicted very quickly, but this is really

the first hard evidence that we’ve had that this occurs , ’ said Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependency Unit at the Mayo Clinic.

Experts have tried for years to determine how long people have to smoke before becoming addicted, and "the best answer to date had been 1-2 years," said Hurt, who was not involved in the study. He said the findings will help scientists better understand the biology of nicotine addiction and lend more plausibility to the idea that some people may be more genetically susceptible to it than others.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Massachusetts in 1998, followed 681 12 to 13 year-olds in central Massachusetts for a year and tracked their smoking habits. The researchers did not label any of them addicted because the standard definition of nicotine dependence assumes addiction cannot happen without prolonged heavy smoking. These include cravings, needing more to get This teen says she’s tied to quit smoking 8 times the same buzz, withdrawal symptoms when not smoking, feeling addicted to tobacco and loss of control over the number of cigarettes smoked or the duration of smoking.

Ninety-five of the youths said they had started smoking occasionally at least one cigarette a month during the study. The scientists found that 60, or 63 percent, had one or more symptoms of addiction. A quarter of those with symptoms got them within two weeks of starting to smoke and several said their symptoms began within a few days.

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