Casual Teenage Smokers at Risk for Addiction

Research on nicotine exposure and dependence associated with different levels of adolescent smoking

Between 1998 and 2001, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, conducted a study of trends in nicotine dependence among adolescents.

Knowledge about adolescent smokers has been limited and smoking prevention efforts directed toward adolescents tended to have short-lived effects.

Key Findings

  • Non-daily and daily adolescent smokers both show dependence on tobacco. The finding indicates that even non-daily smokers absorb physiologically active doses of nicotine, putting them at high risk of becoming daily smokers.
  • Investigators also believe that adolescents, even those who do not smoke every day, may become dependent on smoking sooner than previously believed.
  • After smoking a cigarette, adolescents reported decreases in desire and urge to smoke.
  • Daily and non-daily smokers showed an increase in their heart rate of 37 percent and 33 percent respectively after they smoked a cigarette. This change in heart rate is about twice the rate for adult smokers.
  • Novice smokers may smoke more to achieve pleasurable effects than to alleviate withdrawal.
  • As in adult smokers, smoking appears to improve a novice smoker's ability to focus on a challenging mental task, an effect that could provide an incentive to continue smoking.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $42,835 between October 1998 and September 2001.