I heard that if you smoke at most three cigarettes a day you don't get addicted to smoking. A similar idea was introduced in a How I Met Your Mother episode. Is this true?

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    Addicted to nicotine or to the process of smoking ?
    – Rusty
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 20:23
  • @Rusty: The process of smoking. Any choice would suffice though.
    – Alexandru
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 20:29
  • 4
    From The American Society of Addiction Medicine: "... addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships." It'll be important to keep this in mind when answering this question.
    – user2466
    Commented Jun 6, 2011 at 20:31
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    Is this a question of "does under 3 cigarettes a day count as addiction?" Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 5:26
  • 1
    sounds too simple to be true
    – user288
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 6:28

2 Answers 2


To disprove this theory, would you need to find one person who had never smoked more than 3 cigarettes a day, but who is addicted? To prove this theory, would you need to find several people who frequently smoke up to 3 cigarettes a day, but who are not addicted?

Speaking for myself, I'm an ex-addict: I've quit several times, and I've discovered (empirically) that I can't have even one or two without becoming addicted again - which disproves the theory - unless, you discount me as an example because I used to have more than 3 and am therefore arguably 'already addicted'.

The abstract from this paper (Children's loss of autonomy over smoking: the global youth tobacco survey) says,

The prevalence of lost autonomy was 40% among subjects who smoked 1 or 2 days/month and 41% among subjects who averaged less than one cigarette/day and increased in a dose-response pattern. Regression models derived from the Cyprus data were replicated by the Greek data.

Two national surveys confirm previous reports of difficulty with smoking cessation with infrequent smoking. Since loss of autonomy is universally recognised as a core feature of addiction, our data indicate that young adolescents experience symptoms of nicotine addiction with infrequent tobacco use.

Edit: Also your question title says "prevent" as if smoking less than 3 is the cause of non-addiction: but instead there may be a different, pre-existing cause. For example, maybe some people are inherently more resistant (and others less resistant) to addiction, for all sorts of reasons (mental, physical, social, etc.). The people who are able to smoke less than 3 per day are the very people who were resistant to addiction. Whereas the people who are prone to addiction might start, saying, "Oh I'll just smoke 3, I won't get hooked": and then they don't stop; and then they can't stop even when they want to.

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    Your one and only citation is from an extremely biased source. Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 3:30
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    @Russell - A lot of crime statistics too are from sources with an anti-crime bias.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 13:12
  • I am a person who smokes between 0 and 1 cigarettes a day, and I can say that I am positively addicted. I have never in my life smoked more than that. I find it impossible to resist the temptation, and only if I try really hard can I go weeks without smoking. But never months :(
    – RomanSt
    Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 23:41

Non-smokers are obviously not addicted to cigarettes. As non-smokers smoker 0 cigarettes a day, and 0 is less than 3, there's some truth to the assertion.

That said, this report http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110502174226.htm suggests even secondhand smoke can cause nicotine addiction, one symptom of smoking addiction.
http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/nicotine.html possibly has more information, don't have time now to browse through the entire site.

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