In 2012, among U.S. adults 18 to 34 years of age who had ever used cocaine, 87.9% had smoked cigarettes before using cocaine, 5.7% began using cigarettes and cocaine at the same time, 3.5% used cocaine first, and 2.9% had never smoked cigarettes, according to the journal. Such data leads wife-husband research team Denise and Eric Kandel, to believe that nicotine in any form may serve as a “gateway” drug. The team found the rate of cocaine dependence was highest among users who started using cocaine after having smoked cigarettes, according to Time.
“Nicotine acts as a gateway drug on the brain, and this effect is likely to occur whether the exposure is from smoking tobacco, passive tobacco smoke or e-cigarettes,” they said. “More effective prevention programs need to be developed for all the products that contain nicotine, especially those targeting young people. Our data suggest that effective interventions would not only prevent smoking and its negative health consequences but also decrease the risk of progressing to illicit drug use and addiction.”