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If you have an addiction to cigarettes and have ever attempted to stop smoking then you are well aware how difficult of a habit it can be to break. In fact, it is so difficult that many individuals just sort of give up trying and resign themselves to the life of smoking. They understand the risk involved with doing this, and they understand that they are throwing their money away on a very unhealthy addiction, but the draw to cigarettes is so strong that it outweighs all of this and beckons them to continue.

Some people who have suffered from substance abuse issues and have found recovery have even said that that quitting smoking was more difficult than quitting heroin or other incredibly addictive substances. To some, this may sound like an over exaggeration, but in reality, and if you look at it logically, it makes sense, because a person who is a daily smoker usually smokes between a pack and two packs of cigarettes a day—that is 20 to 40 cigarettes. Not only are cigarettes by their very nature incredibly addictive, but when you do something 20 to 40 times a day, as a daily smoker does, it becomes an ingrained habit that is more difficult to break than say, substance abuse, which you may only partake in a few times a day.

With all of that said it should come as no surprise that a new study at the Queen Mary University of London found that 3 out 5 individuals who try smoking become daily smokers. For those of you who like percentages, that is 61% of all individuals who ever try smoking, at some point become a daily smoker. That is an incredibly large percentage and a frightening revelation.

The Research

Researchers at the University surveyed 215,000 individuals who are said that they were a daily smoker and this is how they discovered the startling information. The lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek stated, “This is the first time that the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented” and that the reason that they chose to study this particular topic is because, “the move from experimentation to daily practice is an important landmark, as it implies that a recreational activity is turning into a compulsive need.”

Yet as interesting as this information is, it may not actually do anything to reduce the number of smokers within the UK or the world at large. It should be noted that the prevalence of smoking has been on the decline over the past 20 years, and in the UK it is estimated that only 19% of adolescents between the age of 11 and 15 have tried smoking, and in the US adolescent smoking has been on a sharp decline from 2011 to 2016, with only 2.2% of students saying they had a cigarette in the past 30 days.

The reason why these facts may not affect an individual’s choice to smoke or not smoke is because for the past 50 years we have been well aware that smoking is incredibly dangerous, and those who understand this and take it to heart, and do not have an addictive personality, are not likely to be further dissuaded because of new findings. Conversely, those who are at risk for addictive behaviors will probably not be persuaded to not try smoking because of the risk that they could become a daily smoker.

Unfortunately, and this is found among substance abuse education and early-intervention as well, “death therapy” does not work. Meaning attempting to scare someone by telling them they could potentially experience a life-threatening condition because of their “choices” is never a deterrent for addictive behaviors, at least for those who suffer from addiction. Possibly among populations who do not suffer addiction this sort of scare tactic, which is really just giving them information rooted in reality, could have the potential to change their decision-making, but among addicts, this is almost never the case.

The Future of Smoking

As tobacco-related products continue to fall out of vogue with the world’s population, it will be interesting to see what occurs, especially with the prevalence of e-cigarettes, and how fashionable they have become in the past 5 years.

It has been seen among some individuals that an e-cigarette is more addictive than traditional tobacco products, due to the fact that an individual can smoke them easily inside their house and because of the flavorful nicotine available. However there is still little to no information about how these products affect an individual in the long term, but more than likely it is not good.

The truth is that people love their vices and so as long as there is stress in the world and a vice to be had, we human beings will continue to struggle with addictive substances, maybe not on an individual level, but on a societal level for sure.