ASH response to study showing three out of five people who try a cigarette become daily smokers


10 January 2018

A study by Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London was published today which showed that three in five people who try a cigarette become daily smokers. [1]

Responding to the study Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of public health charity Action on Smoking and Health, said:

“This research highlights the risks children run of entering into a life of addiction when they experiment with smoking. And make no mistake this is an addiction of childhood, two thirds of adult smokers started smoking for the first time when they were children.”

She went on to say:

“Just under half of child smokers say they usually get their cigarettes from shops despite it being illegal to sell cigarettes to children. Alcohol can only be sold by licensed shops, while anyone can sell cigarettes, which are far more addictive and lethal. Yet the Government is refusing to introduce licencing for tobacco retailers, even though there is strong support for this both from the public and retailers.”


Further information

For information about sources of cigarettes see Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among young people in England – 2014. NHS Digital, 2015. Table 3.1

For information about public and retailer support for licencing see:

In YouGov polling conducted for ASH (February/March 2017), respondents were asked how strongly, if at all, they would support the following measure: requiring businesses to have a licence before they can sell tobacco. Net support for this statement was 76%, with 50% strongly supporting and only 7% opposing. Support was strongest among non-smokers (79% support and 6% oppose for non-smokers compared to 55% support and 18% oppose for smokers).

Counter arguments: How important is tobacco to small retailers? ASH October 2016

Surveys of small retailers show strong support for licensing. In October 2016, ASH published “Counter Arguments – How important is tobacco to small retailers?” The report included the results of a telephone survey of 591 retailers interviewed between 16th March and 1st April 2016 by Retail Connect Cheetham Bell, using an established database of independent stores and sole traders across the UK. Offered a menu of possible answers to the question: “Do you think any of the following could help to ensure that other retailers in your area don’t break the law around tobacco (such as selling to children or selling counterfeit tobacco)?” 69% supported the introduction of a tobacco license that retailers could lose if they broke the law.

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information   contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Deborah Arnott on 07976 935 987 or Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.


[1] ‘What proportion of people who try one cigarette become daily smokers? A meta analysis of representative surveys’. Max Birge, Stephen Duffy, Joanna Astrid Miler, Peter Hajek. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. doi 10.1093/ntr/ntx243