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First Puff Can Turn Kids Into Smokers: Study
Date:10/1/2007

Research suggests that, for some, addiction grabs hold quickly

MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Just a single drag on a cigarette may drag a teen into smoking addiction, a new study suggests.

Researchers say almost a third of kids interviewed who tried smoking said their first cigarette brought them a feeling of relaxation -- and two-thirds of those kids went on to become smokers.

"This provides further support for the idea that dependence begins with the first cigarette," said study lead author Dr. Joseph DiFranza, a professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.

DiFranza's findings are reported in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Between 2002 and 2006, the study authors tracked the smoking habits of 217 sixth-graders, averaging 12 years of age, who they recruited from six schools in Massachusetts. Nearly three-quarters of the children were non-Hispanic whites, and all reported having inhaled a cigarette at least once.

A total of 11 in-person, 20-minute interviews were conducted over the four-year study period. The teens also completed psychological evaluations while recounting their history of tobacco use.

Tobacco-dependence was assessed based on such criteria as cravings, compulsion to smoke, changes in tolerance, time devoted to the pursuit of smoking, and an inability to quit.

As well, all the boys and girls were asked questions regarding basic personality traits, attitudes and beliefs, their social environment, and involvement with their family and community.

The result: Once a teen had tried cigarettes, very little they did afterward impacted on whether they became addicted or not.

Furthermore, experiencing that feeling of being "relaxed" immediately after the first puff of a cigarette was the leading predictor of becoming dependent on cigarettes and
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