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Striking At The Queen Case Study

At least 61 per cent of people who try their first cigarette become, at least temporarily, daily smokers, suggests an analysis of survey data by Queen Mary University of London.

The findings, from over 215,000 survey respondents and published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, provides strong support for prioritising efforts to reduce cigarette experimentation among adolescents.

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.

"In the development of any addictive behaviour, the move from experimentation to daily practice is an important landmark, as it implies that a recreational activity is turning into a compulsive need. 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 per cent of 11-15 year olds have ever tried a cigarette, so the good news is that we are on the right track."

The researchers searched the Global Health Data Exchange* for relevant surveys that included questions about ever trying a cigarette and ever smoking daily. Datasets from eight surveys were found from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, and the survey methods were found to be on par with best practice. Data were analysed to calculate the conversion rate from ever trying a cigarette to ever smoking daily.

The team calculated that 60.3 per cent of respondents had said they had ever tried a cigarette, and among those, an estimated 68.9 per cent said they had progressed to daily smoking.

The different surveys used different methodologies and yielded different results, so the estimated 68.9 per cent 'conversion rate' from experimentation to daily smoking has a margin of error (between 60.9 and 76.9 per cent).

Given the high conversion rate found in all existing surveys, the researchers suggest that at least some of the reduction in smoking prevalence observed over the past 20 years is likely due to reduced experimentation with cigarettes among adolescents.

Professor Peter 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 on non-smokers who try conventional cigarettes become daily smokers. The presence of nicotine is clearly not the whole story."

The study's limitations include the fact that surveys yielded somewhat different results, so the estimated conversion rate is only approximate. There are also questions that can be raised over the accuracy of the recall people have in surveys concerning their smoking history.

Declaration of Interests: Professor Peter Hajek provided consultancy to and received research funding from manufacturers of stop-smoking medications.

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No external funding was sought for this study.

For more information, please contact:

Joel Winston
Public Relations Manager - Medicine and Dentistry
Queen Mary University of London
Tel: +44 (0)207 882 7943
Mobile: +44 (0)7970 096 188
j.winston@qmul.ac.uk

Notes to the editor

* The Global Health Data Exchange describes itself as the world's most comprehensive catalogue of surveys, censuses, vital statistics, and other health-related data: http://ghdx.healthdata.org/

Research paper: 'What proportion of people who try one cigarette become daily smokers? A meta analysis of representative surveys'. Max Birge, Stephen Duffy, Joanna Astrid Miler, Peter Hajek. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. doi 10.1093/ntr/ntx243

About Queen Mary University of London

Queen Mary University of London is one of the UK's leading universities with 23,120 students representing more than 160 nationalities.

A member of the Russell Group, we work across the humanities and social sciences, medicine and dentistry, and science and engineering, with inspirational teaching directly informed by our research. In the most recent national assessment of the quality of research, we were placed ninth in the UK amongst multi-faculty universities (Research Excellence Framework 2014).

As well as our main site at Mile End - which is home to one of the largest self-contained residential campuses in London - we have campuses at Whitechapel, Charterhouse Square, and West Smithfield dedicated to the study of medicine and dentistry, and a base for legal studies at Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Queen Mary began life as the People's Palace, a Victorian philanthropic project designed to bring culture, recreation and education to the people of the East End. We also have roots in Westfield College, one of the first colleges to provide higher education to women; St Bartholomew's Hospital, one of the first public hospitals in Europe; and The London, one of England's first medical schools.

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A British excavation has struck archaeological gold with a discovery that may solve the mystery of where the Queen of Sheba of biblical legend derived her fabled treasures.

Almost 3,000 years ago, the ruler of Sheba, which spanned modern-day Ethiopia and Yemen, arrived in Jerusalem with vast quantities of gold to give to King Solomon. Now an enormous ancient goldmine, together with the ruins of a temple and the site of a battlefield, have been discovered in her former territory.

Louise Schofield, an archaeologist and former British Museum curator, who headed the excavation on the high Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia, said: "One of the things I've always loved about archaeology is the way it can tie up with legends and myths. The fact that we might have the Queen of Sheba's mines is extraordinary."

An initial clue lay in a 20ft stone stele (or slab) carved with a sun and crescent moon, the "calling card of the land of Sheba", Schofield said. "I crawled beneath the stone – wary of a 9ft cobra I was warned lives here – and came face to face with an inscription in Sabaean, the language that the Queen of Sheba would have spoken."

On a mound nearby she found parts of columns and finely carved stone channels from a buried temple that appears to be dedicated to the moon god, the main deity of Sheba, an 8th century BC civilisation that lasted 1,000 years. It revealed a victory in a battle nearby, where Schofield excavated ancient bones.

Although local people still pan for gold in the river, they were unaware of the ancient mine. Its shaft is buried some 4ft down, in a hill above which vultures swoop. An ancient human skull is embedded in the entrance shaft, which bears Sabaean chiselling.

Sheba was a powerful incense-trading kingdom that prospered through trade with Jerusalem and the Roman empire. The queen is immortalised in Qur'an and the Bible, which describes her visit to Solomon "with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold and precious stones ... Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices."

Although little is known about her, the queen's image inspired medieval Christian mystical works in which she embodied divine wisdom, as well as Turkish and Persian paintings, Handel's oratorio Solomon, and Hollywood films. Her story is still told across Africa and Arabia, and the Ethiopian tales are immortalised in the holy book the Kebra Nagast.

Hers is said to be one of the world's oldest love stories. The Bible says she visited Solomon to test his wisdom by asking him several riddles. Legend has it that he wooed her, and that descendants of their child, Menelik – son of the wise – became the kings of Abyssinia.

Schofield will begin a full excavation Schofield said that as she stood on the ancient site, in a rocky landscape of cacti and acacia trees, it was easy to imagine the queen arriving on a camel, overseeing slaves and elephants dragging rocks from the mine.

once she has the funds and hopes to establish the precise size of the mine, whose entrance is blocked by boulders.

Tests by a gold prospector who alerted her to the mine show that it is extensive, with a proper shaft and tunnel big enough to walk along.

Schofield was instrumental in setting up the multinational rescue excavations at the Roman city of Zeugma on the Euphrates before it was flooded for the Birecik dam. Her latest discovery was made during her environmental development work in Ethiopia, an irrigation, farming and eco-tourism project on behalf of the Tigray Trust, a charity she founded to develop a sustainable lifestyle for 10,000 inhabitants around Maikado, where people eke out a living from subsistence farming.

Sean Kingsley, archaeologist and author of God's Gold, said: "Where Sheba dug her golden riches is one of the great stories of the Old Testament. Timna in the Negev desert is falsely known as 'King Solomon's Mines', but anything shinier has eluded us.

"The idea that the ruins of Sheba's empire will once more bring life to the villages around Maikado is truly poetic and appropriate. Making the past relevant to the present is exactly what archaeologists should be doing. "