When Did You Start Smoking Regularly?

Comments by several people set me wondering when most smokers start regularly smoking.

In my own case, I’d tried a few puffs of cigarettes when I was a boy, and didn’t much like it. At school, aged 16 or so, I was quite often to be found behind the proverbial bike sheds, but in some ways it was less out of any liking for cigarettes, and more out of the rush of breaking school rules.

I really only started after the insanely antismoking Dr W, with his clearly irrational hatred of smoking (“Filthy, filthy, filthy,” he shouted), made me think that it probably wasn’t actually as dangerous as it was made out to be, and at age 18 started buying the occasional pack. But smoking regularly really only started when I began meeting girls, in whose company I could be very nervous (and even more nervous the prettier they were, and I got to know pretty much all the prettiest girls). Some of them smoked too, and maybe for the same reason as me. So I really only become a regular smoker at age 19 or even 20.

But many people seem to have started much earlier. So I thought I’d do a poll, giving a range of ages at which people became regular smokers (rather than when they first tried them out).

Here it is:


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31 Responses to When Did You Start Smoking Regularly?

  1. harleyrider1978 says:

    21 right at it……………military. Maybe that’s why im so intent on destroying the enemy.

  2. harleyrider1978 says:

    Miami International Airport Opens Smoking Lounge | Where to Smoke | Cigar Aficionado

    TGI Fridays at Miami International Airport now offers a smoking section for its customers, complete with a…


  3. RdM says:

    I think I would have posited the age brackets a little differently.
    For instance, 18 is the age of majority (and legal tobacco purchase) in many Western countries.
    And 10-14 covers pre-pubescent to pubescent (at least for some.)

    The Zealots profess concern with the Chiildren taking up smoking… I think it might have given more insight into young and teenage initiation if it went, say >10, 10-12, 13-15, 16-17, 18-20, then pretty much as you have it (well, 21-24 next). But it’s a minor quibble. And you did specify regular consumption rather than initially trying it out. Taking it up likely means regularly smoking.

    As for regular;- after being introduced by a friend toward the end of my last year at High School (17-18? I think I’d turned 18) – I’d smoke one or two every weekend, Friday &or Sat night;- very regularly, although it took about 2 months to go through that first pack of B&H!

    • harleyrider1978 says:

      My brother his wife my sisters and even their friends all started smoking at 13 or 14. My brother was in 9th grade I even got in a fight in uniform at my brothers high school over a smoking row,saying he wasn’t using the approved smoking area for students then in 1983.

      We were leaving after seeing the principle and got it straightened out. Then it was a PE coach mr big bad tough shit always throwing his weight around that was on my brothers ass all the time and the same who started the smoking rowe to start with and why I was there. I handed my brother a smoke just as we got to the front door leaving and that asshole comes around and grabs my brothers arm and starts to grab his smoke and I went balls to the walls on his fat ass. I punched him knocked him to the ground and bashed his ass everyway I could til he begged for me to stop…….

      Needless to say the cops weren’t any to friendly but admitted he started it by physically touching my brother a minor with intent after running his mouth first and then grabbing him and trying for his smoke…………..

      Anyhow that was his last day ever in school a 9th grade drop out still smoking making 250 grand a year from his inventory business……….

      All I got was the satisfaction of my first fight with a NAZI……..

    • junican says:

      Although my memory is extremely hazy, I think that I can replicate RdM’s experience, more or less. At around 17, I was smoking regularly, but only a little. I simply could not afford it, being at college. But a couple of fags per day was enough. My smoking was confined to a short time in the evenings, but not deliberately so. It just happened that way. It was the reverse of not smoking on aircraft – my ‘smoking time’ was a couple of hours ‘window’ in the evening, and I was happy with it.
      Because of my work situation, in due course, even when I was earning I did not smoke much. I would guess at maybe ten cigs per day. (Who counted forty years ago?)
      I think that tobacco control, by virtue of advertising smoking day after day, has actually caused an increase in my smoking. What better adverts could tobacco companies have if not “NO SMOKING” signs plastered over the entrance to every public place? Tobacco is advertised, by the Zealots, EVERYWHERE. Talk about unintended consequences!

      • Frank Davis says:

        (Who counted forty years ago?)

        I can’t count. For me rolling cigarettes and smoking them has become an almost automatic process, a bit like driving a car is something I do on automatic, only becoming conscious of it when the situation demands conscious thought (like reading road directions at junctions). Counting is something I can only do when I’m consciously engaged. I don’t automatically count things.

        I suspect most people are the same. It’s easier to count when cigarettes come in packs, and the number of cigarettes left in a pack indicates how many have been smoked. But if cigarettes are offered around in social contexts, even that isn’t an indication of how much has been smoked by me personally. With roll-ups, which don’t come in packs, there’s no way of doing this. You can count butts in ashtrays. But if you have lots of ashtrays…

        • RdM says:

          You can count butts in ashtrays. But if you have lots of ashtrays…

          You hoard them, clip off the burnt bits with scissors, strip & re-roll the accumulated, when the tax has made the price beyond silver, per gram. Precious… as it was in war.

          I try to stretch 30g beyond 3 days, sometimes make 5 after butts, but last couple of days went broke on 15g day it seems, stresses gladly met!

          Now all out but the taste of that cigar, 3am

          And the Rolling Stones faintly in the back ground…

    • Frank Davis says:

      When I drew up the questions, I had no idea when the peak age for starting smoking might be (or even if there would be a peak), and was beginning to wonder whether I’d taken up smoking much later than most people.

      With some 84 responses at the the time of writing, there’s a clear peak in the 15-19 range (I put myself in the 20 – 24 range). If I could change the questions, I think I’d put in year-by-year questions in that range, rather than what you suggest. So …10-14, 15, 16,17, 18, 19, 20-24…. A new peak might emerge in the 15-19 age range.

      I think it’s interesting that the peak appears around the time people leave typically leave school, get jobs, and when it becomes legal to smoke and drink (in the UK at least). The antis always seem to claim that people start smoking earlier than this. But their question might be “When did you first smoke a cigarette?” rather than my question of “When did you start smoking regularly?” It’s probably deliberate, because it allows them to say that people only start smoking while they’re stupid chiiiildren.

      If there’s one question I would have changed, it would be “I never started smoking regularly”, because it could include people who have never smoked at all, and people who smoke, but don’t smoke regularly.

      • RdM says:

        “So …10-14, 15, 16,17, 18, 19, 20-24…. “

        Yes! Finer granular detail… I was reluctant to suggest almost yearly at first blush
        Wer just spontaneous thoughts

        Could have been “I have never smoked” (?)

  4. I smoked my first cigarette when I was about eight or nine years old. To be honest I loved it immediately, but I never really took it up for real until I was 35.

  5. waltc says:

    15. Openly, tho IIRC like only one after dinner along with the “adults.” Smoking wasn’t allowed in high school but kids (not I) smoked in the bathrooms. By 16, smoked daily, I’d guess 5 or 6; Started college at 17, and likely went up to a pack a day for 4 years, unfiltered Pall Mall, then … something filtered. Started working at 21 and simultaneously doing the bar/club scene at night and for many (many) years likely smoked a pack and a half+. Now: 10, at most 12, all-natural Nat Sherman’s

    • RdM says:

      O God ! I’ve read about those http://natshermancigarettes.com/ and I wish I could!

      But hey, tonight, I just got given, smoked and enjoyed, a MonteCristo Habana cigar!

    • smokervoter says:

      Walt, you probably smoke the equivalent of 20/day of regular tailormades. Sherman’s count as one-half from my experience. They don’t contain saltpeter and will go out if you leave them alone. They are definitely an exquisite product. I wonder if they contain a higher dose of nicotine because I was never able to smoke a complete one in one sitting. It was always halfway down and finish it off later. Hence my one-half designation.

      I started smoking at 12 years old but didn’t inhale for the first six months. Then one day one of the older tanker-jacketed guys nailed me by calling me a wus who might as well be smoking candy cigarettes by ‘mouth hitting’ my cigarette.

      I inhaled right in front of him and did my level best to repress a cough and the rest is history.

      Just one more thing here. Walt, you must be quite the highbrow smoker (just kidding, I love ya’ pal). Shermans have always been the Rolls-Royce of cigarettes. They’re $9 a pack here in California so I can’t even imagine what they must cost in New York City.

      • waltc says:

        Nope, I get them from family in Virginia. Six bucks vs 13-14 here for a basic Marlboro. And you may be right about 10= more, but I too frequently smoke only half at a time and relight it later. OTOH, they don’t go out like the pop brands. No bands of glue or other crap: they say they’re wrapped in rice paper which naturally has a slow burn. Or something. I started on them when “fire-safe” became law and my regular brand started tasting lousy. What I smoke, specifically, is their MCD light–er, now by law renamed “gold.” Try one next time you come into a bloated fortune (or make friends with a Viginian).

  6. nisakiman says:

    I polled the 10 – 14 option because although I started smoking at 8 or 9, I wouldn’t call it ‘regular’. Just whenever either one of the lads had a ciggy he’d nicked off his dad or when my pocket money stretched to a packet of ‘Dominoes’ (does anyone remember ‘Dominoes’? They were unfiltered and small, and came in a little cardboard sleeve with four cigarettes, no lid and no cellophane wrapping. I can’t remember how much they cost, but it was only pennies. It was as if they were specifically made for kids with near zero budgets!). It wasn’t until I was about ten or eleven that I started smoking on a daily basis. I’ve stopped a couple of times (can’t remember why) for a year or so each time, but I was still smoking dope pretty regularly, so that probably doesn’t count really. My consumption (when I smoked tailor-mades) has varied from one pack a day to five packs (Camel plain) a day. These days I smoke rollies and probably smoke 10 – 15 cigs a day.

  7. jltrader says:

    Harry SN Greene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_S.N._Greene) on Ernst Wynder: ”Wynder’s father was a violent anti-tobacco man and Wynder has had this drummed into him from the moment he was born. Wynder has a complex on tobacco.”

    • Frank Davis says:

      That’s very interesting. Wynder (who with Graham produced one of the several 1950 smoking-linked-to-cancer studies) also lived in Nazi Germany in his childhood, and was aged something like 18 when his family moved to the USA. So if he got anti-smoking drummed into him by his father, he probably got plenty from the Nazi regime as well. I have the idea that his father was a doctor.

    • Rose says:

      “Dr Goodman minuted a private meeting with Dr Ernst Wynder”

      “He is a young man ‘far gone in enthusiasm’ for the causal relationship between tobacco smoking and lung cancer. (I had been told when I was in New York this spring that he was the son of a revivalist preacher and had inherited his father’s antipathy to tobacco and alcohol.)”

  8. jltrader says:

    I was also reading on Alton Ochsner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alton_Ochsner), another pioneer of the anti-smoking propaganda. In a court case in the early 60s he kept insisting that incidence of laryngeal cancer was paralleling the rise in lung cancer incidence despite statistics showing otherwise. He was president of American Cancer Society in 1949-1950. Later, he was also a supporter of ASH, which by know I think we can safely say it’s a terrorist organization masquerading as health charity. The more I look into the beginning of modern (post 1950) anti smoking propaganda, the more it becomes obvious it was started by some fanatics who even though they might have been scientists in their fields, they forgot all scientific rigor in the smoking issue.

  9. Emily says:

    I think I was 12 or 13- strangely enough, I started smoking marijuana first but used tobacco to roll joints. So one day I decided to smoke a cigarette all by itself and I loved it. And now I really have no use for marijuana but still love tobacco.

  10. wobbler2012 says:

    16 3/4’s here for me, when I joined the Junior leaders (boys army.)

    Before then I had 2 cigs a day (on my paper round) and they were hidden in a plastic bag under a hedge in an alleyway on my paper round route. They were Red Band.

  11. Rose says:

    I had absolutely no interest in smoking cigarettes until I saw just one anti-smoking poster too many, even then I waited three years until I was absolutely, positively sure that they were trying to mislead me.
    To this very day, I can see no advantage in adding “road tar” to a cigarette. : )

  12. beobrigitte says:

    When did I start to smoke regularly? I had to think a bit about it. Unlike the first cigarette (nicked from my dad) smoked for a ‘dare’, I don’t remember exactly when.
    I did smoke from 12 years onwards but only occasionally and often not at all. Although at the time the law allowed smoking at the age of 16 I didn’t storm out to buy cigarettes. I had started work at the age of 15 and changed job 1 year later. This job involved a short train journey and I began to enjoy smoking a cigarette when waiting for the train and on the way there. Even when I moved out at the age of 17 I wasn’t bothered – I smoked when I felt like it and when I wasn’t too busy with gymnastics, playing table tennis, football, handball etc. Smoking was not important to me.

    What grabbed my attention was overhearing a conversation of two men, talking about “they want to ban smoking”. I had no idea who “they” were, but I began to make sure that I ALWAYS had cigarettes. That was shortly before my 18th birthday.

    No peer pressure (a lot of my friends didn’t smoke at all), no fancy packets, no Marlborough man (in Germany it was the HB-Maennchen!) persuaded me to smoke. It was the sentence: ‘they-want-to-ban-smoking’.

  13. Barry Homan says:

    I started at age 13, just off and on then for 7 years – didn’t started being a pack-a-day man until age 20.

    I’ve smoked a pack a day for 35 years now.

  14. marieengling says:

    I smoked my first cigarette when I was 25. I had bought two packs i Sweden, where they were cheeper. They were just laying around in my room in Copenhagen, where I studied. But I had been smoking hash together with my friends for some time. They were all architect students as my boyfriend was. They laughed at me, because I did not understand to inhale, and it must have looked funny. One day at my room in Cph. I thought if it could be the same with the cigarettes, so I opened the first pack and tried one. I did not bye any, but back in Århus, I asked an old friend for a cigarette, she had been smoking for years. She told me, I was stupid, I said, that I only smoked one / day, and not even that. It would soon be 20 she said. I did not believe her.
    Then I changed my room in Cph. I shared the kitchen with a girl, who smoked 10/ day, and so I started to smoked after dinner and soon 10/day. And so it went on to 20 and more … :)

  15. smokervoter says:

    I know that Eric Burdon smoked his first cigarette at ten – when he was young. BTW that was a great song, one among many similarly great tunes by the Animals. Another example of how Brittanica Rules the Sound Waves.

    I wore the vinyl off of Animalization listening to “Inside Lookin’ Out”. Burdon sounded blacker than a black man on that song.

    He’s a neighbor nowadays. He lives about 40 miles away in Palm Springs.

  16. harleyrider1978 says:

    Six months in jail for smoking in public

    Six months in jail for smoking in public

    13 May 2015. The Senate approved stricter controls on tobacco use that could send offenders to jail for six months for lighting up in public places, according the newspaper This Day.

    The account did not specify what sort of public establishment would be subject to the ban.

    A Daily Trust story that did not directly address a ban on or penalties for smoking in public, said the Tobacco Control Bill, “is to ensure that Nigeria has a comprehensive tobacco law for effective regulation and control of production, manufacturing, sale, labeling, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco and tobacco products.” Both accounts were posted online.


  17. jaxthefirst says:

    I was a very late starter – didn’t start till I was almost 30 (29 and a bit, to be precise) – having been a complete never-smoker beforehand. Why did I start? Curiosity. I inhaled like a pro from my first puff (no coughing or spluttering involved), and absolutely loved that wonderful, relaxing nicotine rush – and still do. Why didn’t I start before that? Because, back when I was a teenager/20-something, everybody else did. I’ve always had an inborn resistance to peer pressure in any direction (put that in your pipe and smoke it, all you antis – maybe “denormalisation” might prove to be, err, counter-productive?), and so, to me, not smoking was a manifestation of that, being as each and every one of my friends were doing it. By the time I took it up, all my friends, beaten into submission by decades of propaganda, were busy obediently quitting. So, true to form – again, just to be different – I started. I took to it like a duck to water and have never regretted it for an instant – conformism being, to me, a fate worse than any death dreamed up by anti-smokers could possibly be. And the fact that smoking is disapproved-of by the very type of people whose approval I would actively seek to avoid because I so despise them, is an added bonus.

  18. Tim says:

    I had my first at 9. Did not like it. But at 11, I tried again and was determined to inhale. Did it while still 11. I really loved inhaling as a kid. As an adult too. Quit before I turned 50.

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