Tobacco As A "Gateway" Drug



"What is notable about tobacco use is that it consistently occurs early in the sequence of problem behaviors. When a young person starts to smoke or use tobacco, it is a signal, an alarm that he or she may get involved in other risky behaviors.
"This is one of the few early warning signs we have in public health. If we can prevent tobacco use in the first place, we might have a big impact on preventing or delaying a host of other destructive behaviors among our young people."
Former Surgeon General Joyce Elders.
Among young people 15 years of age, the initial use of cigarettes, alcohol or marijuana is the strongest predictor of later use of cocaine.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1988.
Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years old who had smoked in the past 30 days were 3 times more likely to have consumed alcohol, 8 times more likely to have smoked marijuana and 22 times more likely to have used cocaine when compared to those who had not smoked cigarettes.
NIDA, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1985.
Illegal drug use is rare among those who have never smoked and cigarette smoking is likely to precede the use of alcohol or illicit drugs.
National Survey Results on Drug Use from the Monitoring the Future Study, 1975-1994," The University of Michigan.
The amount of tobacco use is directly related to other drug use. Students whose low-level use of tobacco or alcohol increased to heavy-level use during follow-up interviews were more likely to begin using other substances or to increase their use of these substances than those who remained low-level uses of tobacco or alcohol.
Bailey, 1992.
Among 12 through 17 year old adolescents who had never smoked, only 3 percent had binged (had five or more alcoholic drinks in a row) in the past 30 days. This compares to nearly 40 percent of daily smokers in this age group who had binged in the last 30 days.
NIDA, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1985.

 [source: Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco (STAT), phone: 413.732.7828]