Teens become nicotine addicts more quickly than adults
NEW YORK, Feb 24 (Reuters Health) -- Adolescent smokers can develop nicotine addiction even before they begin to smoke on a daily basis, according to Dr. Joseph R. DiFranza of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.
``Nicotine addiction occurs much more quickly in adolescents than we thought was possible,'' said DiFranza said, who presented data at the 6th annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in Arlington, Virginia.
DiFranza and colleagues asked 681 adolescents the same ten questions every four months, beginning when the group attended seventh grade. The researchers then calculated symptoms of nicotine dependence, such as difficulty quitting, inability to quit, and feelings of addiction from the point when each adolescent reported smoking at a rate of at least once per month.
Of the 95 adolescents who reported smoking at least once a month, DiFranza's team found that 16 reported a symptom of nicotine dependence within 2 weeks and 21 reported symptoms within 4 weeks.
The overall analysis shows that ``at least one-half of those with symptoms showed those symptoms within 12 weeks of smoking at least once per month,'' DiFranza told Reuters Health in an interview from the meeting.
Previous assumptions, based on studies of adult smokers, indicate that nicotine dependence does not occur in adults until they smoke up to 1/2 pack per day, DiFranza said. In adolescents, however, the first symptoms of nicotine dependence can appear very rapidly, often before a teen begins smoking on a daily basis.
``This study shows that dependence can occur before an adolescent smokes one cigarette per day,'' DiFranza said.