Teenage smokers show early signs of addiction

Thursday 05 September 1996
ASH/ Press releases/

102 CliftonStreet, London EC2A 4HW Tel: (020) 7739 5902 Fax: (020) 7613 0531

Press Release
5th September 1996

Action on Smoking
and Health


Among young people who smoke one or morecigarettes a week, 3 in 10 light up their first cigarette of the day within 30 minutes ofwaking. Six per cent smoke within the first 5 minutes. Only 1 in 10 can wait for as longas two hours before smoking. These alarming figures indicate the degree to which teenagesmokers quickly become addicted to nicotine.

These findings come from a MORI survey ofsmoking habits in children aged 11 to 16 commissioned by ASH, the BMA, Cancer ResearchCampaign, Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the Royal College of Nursing. There was littledifference in the degree of addiction between girls and boys.

Martin Jarvis, an ASH Board Member and aPrincipal Senior Scientist at ICRF, said: “We know from studies of adult smokers thattime to first cigarette of the day is a strong indicator of tobacco dependence. The factthat teenagers start smoking so early in the day is a clear indication that they areaddicted. Nicotine is a powerful drug which keeps people hooked on smoking despite thefact that most smokers want to give up the habit. This survey mirrors the findings of the1994 General Household Survey which revealed that 46 % of adult smokers light up withinhalf an hour of waking. The MORI survey shows that teenagers have similar levels ofdependence as adults.”

Possibly in recognition of the addictiveness ofnicotine, 44% of teenagers surveyed thought that tobacco should be classified as a”hard” drug like ecstasy or heroin. There was little difference in views betweenthe sexes but younger children were more likely to support the statement than were olderteenagers. Thirty seven per cent of 11 year olds strongly agreed that tobacco should beclassified as a hard drug compared with only 8% of 15 and 16-year olds. Nonsmokers weremuch more sympathetic to the statement than smokers: 56% of those who had never smokedsupported putting tobacco on a par with hard drugs compared with only 8% of regularsmokers.

Pamela Furness, Chief Executive of ASH, said:”This survey shows that although young people are aware that smoking is harmful totheir health they underestimate the power of nicotine to hook them on the habit. It isscandalous that the industry is allowed to openly promote its addictive and dangerousproducts to young people. For the past thirty years the tobacco companies have hidden thetruth about nicotine and failed to warn smokers about the addictiveness of their products.The UK Government should now follow the recommendations of the US Food and DrugAdministration and regulate nicotine as a drug.”


Notes for editors:
This survey formed part of MORI’s regular Schools Omnibus survey. It was commissioned byASH, British Medical Association, Cancer Research Campaign, Imperial Cancer Research Fundand the Royal College of Nursing.

MORI interviewed a representative sample of4,532 schoolchildren aged 11-16 year olds in curriculum years 7 to 11. The sample ofschools comprised 192 middle and secondary schools in England and Wales. Fieldwork wasconducted between 23 January and 19 February 1996.

Contact Amanda Sanford (020) 7739 5902
Martin Jarvis Michele Corrado or
Suzy Aronstam (MORI)
0171 209 6626

0171 222 0232

RegisteredCharity No 262067
Action on Smoking and Health is a company limited by guarantee.  Registered inEngland No 998971.  Registered address as above