Researchers found that two thirds of people who experimented with cigarettes later became more frequent smokers, even if this was only temporary.
The authors from Queen Mary University of London said the study showed “the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience”.
This contrasts with new e-cigarettes where they say one-off experimenters are less likely to become regular “vapers”, the authors said.
They said the study, published in the journal Nicotine And Tobacco Research, provides support for reducing cigarette experimentation among teenagers.
Researchers scoured global databases for studies examining cigarette experimentation and smoking habits, including research from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Data from eight surveys – with information on more than 215,000 people – was included for analysis.
The team found that 60 per cent of respondents had said they had ever tried a cigarette, and among those, 69 per cent said they had progressed to daily smoking.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek, from Queen Mary, said: “This is the first time that the remarkable hold that cigarettes can establish after a single experience has been documented from such a large set of data.
“We’ve found that the conversion rate from ‘first-time smoker’ to ‘daily smoker’ is surprisingly high, which helps confirm the importance of preventing cigarette experimentation in the first place.
“The UK is seeing a dramatic reduction in smoking at the moment and this tallies with recent findings that only 19% of 11 to 15-year-olds have ever tried a cigarette, so the good news is that we are on the right track.”
Prof Hajek added: “Concerns were expressed that e-cigarettes could be as addictive as conventional cigarettes, but this has not been the case.
“It is striking that very few non-smokers who try e-cigarettes become daily vapers, while such a large proportion of non-smokers who try conventional cigarettes become daily smokers. The presence of nicotine is clearly not the whole story.”
Additional reporting by PA
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