Kids addicted to nicotine as early as 12 & within 4 weeks of smoking

Monday 11 September 2000


Press Release

11 September 2000 immediate


Adolescents addicted to nicotine as early as age 12


Kids can be addicted to cigarettes as early as age 12 and after only four weeks of smoking.[1]  ASH warned that the biggest risk facing teenage smokers was not direct ill-health, but that they would become addicted to nicotine very quickly and find it hard to quit when they reach their twenties or thirties.


Clive Bates,Director of ASH said:


“People think the real nicotine addicts are the 40-a-day 50 year old chain smokers, but the research shows that symptoms of physical dependence set in very early and even with very light smoking.


“The big risk for teenagers is not that they are going to keel over with a heart attack or cancer when they reach 20, but that nicotine addiction will set it and they will find it difficult or impossible to quit when they want to. 


“We also know that teenagers overestimate the likelihood that they will actually be able to quit. Most are confident that they will stop when they want to, but less than half do.  Many teenagers are destined to join the 70 percent of adults that want to quit smoking.


“When teenagers start smoking, they are in the glamour phase when smoking seems cools, exciting and adult,  but all the time the physical addiction is building up.  At some point the glamour is gone but the smoker is hooked, and to the tobacco companies a new loyal and lifelong customer.”  


As the tobacco company Philip Morris explained in 1969 [2]:


“a cigarette for the beginner is a symbolic act. I am no longer my mother’s child, I’m tough, I am an adventurer,  I’m not square … As the force from the psychological symbolism subsides, the pharmacological effect takes over to sustain the habit. (1969)


[1] DiFranza J et al. Initial symptoms of nicotine dependence in adolescents.  TobaccoControl 2000;9:313-319   View article as a PDF


[2] Philip Morris, Vice President for Research and Development, Why one smokes, 1969.


Contact:  Clive Bates, 020 7739 5902 (w) 0468 791237 (m)