Context: It has not been determined if a youth's reaction to the first smoking experience is predictive of future nicotine dependence, or whether the impact of the first cigarette can be altered by manipulating levels of tar, nicotine and menthol.
Objective: To determine if the recalled response to the first cigarette is predictive of the development of symptoms of nicotine dependence and whether it is influenced by the type of cigarette smoked.
Design and setting: A retrospective/prospective longitudinal study of the natural history of nicotine dependence employing individual interviews conducted three times annually in two urban school systems over 3 years. Subjects were asked to recall their first smoking experience.
Participants: A cohort of 237 subjects who had inhaled on a cigarette.
Main outcome measures: Symptoms associated with smoking; the Hooked on Nicotine Checklist of 10 symptoms of dependence.
Results: Reactions to the initial smoking experience were unrelated to gender or cigarette brand, strength or mentholation. Relaxation in response to the first inhalation was the strongest predictor of symptoms of nicotine dependence. Dizziness and nausea were also independent predictors of dependence symptoms.
Conclusions: The data suggest that increased sensitivity to nicotine as manifested by relaxation, dizziness, or nausea in response to the first exposure to nicotine represents a risk factor for the development of nicotine dependence.