I have a special fascination for people's first experiences with tobacco, cigarettes, smoking, and nicotine. There may be others amongst us who share this interest.
Of course, one of the most moving accounts I've ever read was the autobiography of our dear hostess. Thank you so much for that, Vesperae!
But I also browse the various boards, blogs, and social sites in search of stories about how, when, and why people (OK, for me, female people) came to experiment, become, and continue to smoke. I just love that stuff!
I've noticed some murkiness in the area of awareness about when their actual personal addiction set in. Now we could argue until Ves' moon turns blue about what 'addiction' is, but that's not the focus here. Let's say for now that addiction manifests as a need, desire, or willingness to smoke on a regular basis.
The interesting question is, how quickly do most people become addicted to cigarettes? How soon does it happen? How many cigarettes does it take? How many puffs?
I think it's quick. Much quicker than the common view. I say it's maybe 3, 4, or 5 inhales. I say that once the initiate feels the nicotine rush once or twice, they're hooked.
But early addiction doesn't look like a pack-a-day smoker. It looks like a cigarette every few days or weeks. It looks like 'Oh, I'm just a social smoker - at parties and clubs with my friends.' The point is that new smokers can go for long periods without smoking, yet still be hooked.
About 10% of people who try smoking remain "chippers" - they can smoke on or off and never become daily smokers. But, I read a reliable statistic once that said 85% of people who smoke 4 cigarettes end up becoming daily smokers.
This 85% follow an inevitable pattern: the interval between their smoking experiences becomes shorter and shorter, until they're at a regular, consistent level. May be 5-6 a day; may be a pack; may be heavier. Everyone finds their level.
Some are quick. "Loved it from the first puff; within three weeks I was a pack a day smoker". Some take months to go daily. My all-time favorite was a lady I'd met: "I didn't start 'til I was 27. My first pack was Winston. Have you ever had a Winston? Or a Marlboro? That would have been it right there. Then I tried menthol. That did it, I was hooked!". (She was smoking More menthol at the time. To this day, I regret not asking her what brand of menthol did the trick for her. This would have been around 1974; I sometimes imagine it was Salem, for various reasons.) But I digress.
Timely addiction. People don't get they're hooked. They don't realize they're already over the edge of the slippery slope after just a few puffs. They tell you they're not. They swear they're not.
But they will have another cigarette sooner or later. And another, and another...