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Teens Don’t Recognize the Early Symptoms of Nicotine Addiction

Teens who are experimenting with smoking cigarettes, but who are not yet daily smokers, fail to recognize initial symptoms of dependence, such as cravings, as early symptoms of a tobacco addiction.

Researchers at The University of Massachusetts followed 370 adolescents who had at previously inhaled a cigarette at least once. These teens were followed over a 4 year period between 2002 and 2006, and were surveyed every 3 or 4 months during that time period.

During that time:

  • 62% became at least once a month smokers
  • 52% began to experience symptoms of nicotine dependence
  • 40% became daily smokers

The researchers found that as teens started smoking more regularly, but before they became daily smokers, they started experiencing symptoms of early nicotine dependence, such as:

  • Craving a cigarette
  • Becoming irritable when they could not have a cigarette

These early signs of dependence tend to lead to increased smoking rates, which further increases dependence – which further increases smoking! Significantly, teens who were experiencing these early symptoms of nicotine dependence did not recognize these signs for they were - early symptoms of a cigarette addiction.

The study results of "Early Course of Nicotine Dependence in Adolescent Smokers” have been published in the current edition of the journal, Pediatrics by lead researcher, Chyke Doubeni, MD. The FDA is using some of the results from this study to justify increased regulations on the marketing of tobacco to youth – regulations which tobacco companies are currently fighting in court.

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