Instantly Irresistible, Except When It Isn't


The latest instantly addictive drug may surprise you, especially if, like most Americans, you have tried it. "Just One Cigarette Can Lead to Addiction," the CBC reports, based on a study in which researchers interviewed 1,200 sixth-graders. "Among the 217 inhalers, 127 lost autonomy over their tobacco use, 10% having done so within 2 days and 25% having done so within 30 days of first inhaling from a cigarette," they report in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. "The most susceptible youths lose autonomy over tobacco within a day or 2 of first inhaling from a cigarette."

The researchers measured "lost autonomy" with the Hooked on Nicotine Checklist, which asks smokers about unsuccessful efforts to quit, feelings of addiction, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. These criteria are highly subjective, and I'm not sure how reliable an 11-year-old's answers to such questions are. At that age, kids may exaggerate their attachment to cigarettes because they associate addiction with adulthood. In any case, the results indicate, contrary to the headlines inspired by the study, that for most smokers the addiction process is gradual. Another point obscured by the study is that most people who try cigarettes either never become addicted or eventually quit. About two-thirds of American adults have smoked cigarettes, while only a fifth are current smokers.

[Thanks to Taylor Buley for the tip.]