Study Finds Some People Are 'Born To Smoke'

March 31, 1998

ANN ARBOR---Only about one-third of the teenagers who experiment with tobacco go on to smoke regularly. What makes them different from kids who try a cigarette or two and decide smoking is not for them?

Although social factors such as peer pressure undoubtedly play a role, there is mounting evidence that some people are "destined" to become smokers because they are inherently more sensitive to the effects of nicotine---particularly the pleasurable effects---than people who are not tempted to smoke again.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School asked female smokers, ex-smokers, and non-smokers about the sensations they felt when they tried smoking the first time. The smokers---especially the heavy smokers---were much more likely to say they experienced pleasurable effects, such as a "buzz" or relaxation.

The research is detailed in a paper to be published in the April issue of the journal Addiction. It was conducted by Ovide Pomerleau, M.S., Ph.D., and colleagues at the Nicotine Research Laboratory in the U-M Behavioral Medicine Program.

These findings have a bearing on the debate over cigarette advertising and teenagers, Pomerleau says, because they suggest one in three kids who sample a cigarette will become lifetime tobacco customers, and vulnerable to tobacco's adverse health effects. For that reason, he says, it's critical to reduce the number of teens who smoke that "first" cigarette.

Previous studies have indicated the propensity to smoke is transmitted genetically, even more so than alcoholism is. The U-M study goes a step further and offers clues about precisely what is being inherited---a tendency to find nicotine pleasurable---and perhaps where gene-hunters should start in their search for "smoking genes."

The study also suggests that someday it may be possible to identify a cluster of characteristics that go hand-in-hand with sensitivity to nicotine, or to develop a test for biological sensitivity. Once there is a simple way to identify children at high risk of becoming smokers, they can be targeted for special preventive efforts, Pomerleau says.

He and colleagues from the U-M, Washington University and SRI International currently are investigating the genetic basis of smoking as part of the country's first federally funded center for nicotine research.

The study to be published in Addiction also refutes the conventional parental wisdom that a child who gets sick after sneaking a cigarette will be deterred from subsequent smoking. Current smokers were just as likely as non-smokers to experience nausea or coughing when they smoked the first time, but it did not dissuade them from continuing to light up.

University of Michigan

Related Smoking Articles from Brightsurf:

Smoking rates falling in adults, but stroke survivors' smoking rates remain steady
While the rate of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen steadily over the last two decades, the rate of stroke survivors who smoke has not changed significantly.

What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows!
A new study from researchers at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication found that most people, smokers and non-smokers alike, were nowhere near accurate in their answers to questions about smoking's health effects.

Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.

Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.

Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

How the UK smoking ban increased wellbeing
Married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being following the smoking bans in the UK in 2006 and 2007 but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.

Smoking study personalizes treatment
A simple blood test is allowing Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

A biophysical smoking gun
While much about Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery, scientists do know that part of the disease's progression involves a normal protein called tau, aggregating to form ropelike inclusions within brain cells that eventually strangle the neurons.

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.

Read More: Smoking News and Smoking Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to