Moderate levels of secondhand smoke deliver nicotine to the brain

Exposure to secondhand smoke, such as a person can get by riding in an enclosed car while someone else smokes, has a direct, measurable impact on the brain—and the effect is similar to what happens in the brain of the person doing the smoking. In fact, exposure to this secondhand smoke evokes cravings among smokers, according to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study, published today in Archives of General Psychiatry, used positron emission tomography (PET) to demonstrate that one hour of secondhand smoke in an enclosed space results in enough reaching the brain to bind receptors that are normally targeted by direct exposure to tobacco smoke. This happens in the brain of both and non-smokers.

Previous research has shown that exposure to secondhand smoke increases the likelihood that children will become teenage smokers and makes it more difficult for adult smokers to quit. Such associations suggest that secondhand smoke acts on the brain to promote smoking behavior.

"These results show that even limited secondhand smoke exposure delivers enough nicotine to the brain to alter its function," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. "Chronic or severe exposure could result in even higher nicotine levels, which may explain why exposure increases vulnerability to nicotine addiction."

"This study gives concrete evidence to support policies that ban smoking in public places, particularly enclosed spaces and around children," said Arthur Brody, M.D., of the UCLA Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and corresponding author for the article.

Related Stories

Secondhand smoke costs billions

date Oct 06, 2006

Medical and economic costs associated with secondhand smoke's effect on non-smokers in the United States could be $6 billion, a recent study shows.

Secondhand smoke a risk for children worldwide

date Mar 05, 2008

Parents worldwide are doing little to protect their children from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Exposure to secondhand smoke has ...

Recommended for you

Physician/Pharmacist model can improve mean BP

date 7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A physician/pharmacist collaborative model can improve mean blood pressure (BP), according to a study published online March 24 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Innovative prototype presented for post-ICU patients

date 7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A collaborative care model, the Critical Care Recovery Center (CCRC), represents an innovative prototype aimed to improve the quality of life of intensive care unit (ICU) survivors, according ...

Clues to a city's health may be found in its sewage

date 10 hours ago

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggests that sampling a city's sewage can tell scientists a great deal about its residents – and may someday lead to improvements in public health.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.