Addiction to nicotine does not happen quickly, after using tobacco once or twice; it develops over time. Most smokers go through a series of steps from experimentation to regular use on their way to becoming addicted. Particularly in the industrialized countries, most people addicted to nicotine initiated smoking during adolescence.Since a typical smoker takes 10 puffs on each cigarette, a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day (20 cigarettes per pack) will receive 200 doses of nicotine daily. No other drug is dosed at such a high frequency. This conditioning, in addition to the presence of nicotine, is critical to the addiction process.
The prevalence of tobacco dependence diagnosed according to the ICD-10 criteria was 23.9% among all subjects. The prevalence of tobacco dependence diagnosed according to the ICD-10 criteria was higher in alcohol-dependent individuals (58.1%) than in nondrinkers or social drinkers (12.8%). Alcohol-dependent subjects consumed significantly more nicotine per day than did nondrinkers or social drinkers. The prevalence of nicotine physical dependence diagnosed by using DSM-IV criteria for nicotine withdrawal was 2.4% in alcohol-dependent individuals, whereas only 0.3% of nondrinkers or social drinkers exhibited nicotine physical dependence.