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.

Provided by National Institutes of Health

2 /5 (1 vote)

Related Stories

Secondhand smoke costs billions

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

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

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments