Over 60% of people who try a cigarette for the first time become, at least temporarily, daily smokers, a new study suggests.
UK researchers analysed relevant surveys of over 215,000 smokers living in the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
While different surveys used different methods, the researchers were able to calculate a ‘conversion rate' of 69%, in other words, people who converted from trying a cigarette to smoking every day.
Allowing for a margin of error, the researchers estimated that at least 61% of people who try a cigarette for the first time will go on to smoke every day.
"This is the first time that the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented from such a large set of data," commented the study's lead researcher, Prof Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University of London.
The researchers believe that efforts to reduce smoking experimentation among teenagers are key.
"In the development of any addictive behaviour, the move from experimentation to daily practice is an important landmark, as it implies that a recreational activity is turning into a compulsive need.
"We've found that the conversion rate from ‘first time smoker' to ‘daily smoker' is surprisingly high, which helps confirm the importance of preventing cigarette experimentation in the first place," Prof Hajek said.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Nicotine & Tobacco.