Posts Tagged ‘ cigarettes ’

Smoking May Alter Teens’ Brain Structure

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Teens who smoke cigarettes–even those who don’t smoke “heavily,” can quickly alter their brain structure in ways that were previously thought to be reserved for long-time smokers.  These are the findings of a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, which found that smoking one pack of cigarettes or less each day can lead to brain patterns that lock people into dependence on nicotine.  More from Time.com:

[Edythe] London and her colleagues focused on a brain region called the insula, since previous studies in animal and adults showed that its size and volume were affected by smoking. Of the regions in the cortical, or memory, awareness and language parts of the brain, the insula contains the most receptors for nicotine. The region is responsible for decision-making and helping to establish a person’s conscious awareness of his internal state. In studies of stroke patients, smokers who lost function of the right insula in the stroke quit smoking, and reported feeling no cravings for nicotine. And in earlier studies London’s team conducted, they found a strong relationship between how much smokers who watched videos of people smoking experienced cravings for cigarettes and the activity of the insula, which lit up on PET scans.

When London’s team looked at the brains of the 18 smoking teens and 24 non-smoking adolescents, aged 16 to 21 years, using structural MRI, they found no differences overall in the insula region. But a closer examination revealed that the right insula of the smokers was thinner than those of the nonsmokers.

“The brain is still undergoing development when someone is in their late teens,” she says. “It’s possible that smoking during this period could have effects that could alter tobacco dependence later in life, and that the insult could alter the trajectory of brain development.”

While the study doesn’t establish whether the differences in the insula can lead to smoking, or is the result of smoking, London says it highlights the role that the brain region may play in how people respond to nicotine and cigarettes. “I think this is very exciting because it points to a vulnerability, a potential vulnerability factor either to become nicotine dependent or for the effects of smoking to ultimately alter the trajectory of brain development,” she says. That trajectory could affect not only smoking behavior but decision-making in general, since the insula is important in such assessments.

Image: Teen smoker, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment

Britain Will Ban Smoking in Cars That Carry Kids

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Citing research on the health risks children face due to consistent exposure to second-hand smoke, British politicians have approved legislation that would prohibit adults from smoking in cars where children travel.  More from Reuters:

The move comes after lobbying from health campaigners and the opposition Labour party, who cited research showing that smoking in cars exposed children to more concentrated smoke and caused health problems.

The government confirmed it would seek to implement a ban before an election in May next year, after lawmakers voted on Monday to give ministers the power to bring in the measure.

“The intention is for the secondary regulations to be in force ahead of May 2015,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said on Tuesday. “There is a particular issue around vehicles being a particularly confined space and the associated public health concerns.”

The ban has been criticized by some parliamentarians and lobbyists as an intrusion on individual freedoms.

Last year, Massachusetts considered legislation to ban smoking in cars where children travel, and committees are still debating the measure.

Image: Adult smoking in a car, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Britain to Ban E-Cigarettes for Kids Under 18

Monday, January 27th, 2014

British officials have announced that it will ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, called e-cigarettes, to minors under age 18, citing health risks as well as the need for further medical research.  In the U.S., e-cigarettes are the subject of similar concern and pressure for the government to regulate the devices.  The number of U.S. teens who say they have tried the devices doubled in 2013.  More on Britain’s announcement from Reuters:

E-cigarettes, which are puffed like a regular cigarette but deliver nicotine by vaporizing liquid rather than burning tobacco, have grown in popularity and some analysts predict the market could outpace conventional cigarettes within a decade.

“We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk- free,” England’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said in a statement.

She added that e-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and that variations in the strength of the nicotine solutions between different products meant they could end up being “extremely damaging” to young people’s health.

The global market for e-cigarettes was estimated at more than $2 billion last year by market consultant Euromonitor.

Under-18s are already banned from buying conventional cigarettes in Britain. Sunday’s announcement included plans to make it illegal for adults to buy regular cigarettes for consumption by under 18s.

Image: Electronic cigarette, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Test Yields Better Info in Asthma-Smoking Connection

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Being around people who smoke is dangerous for children diagnosed with asthma, but many times parents are hesitant to reveal to doctors the extent of their kids’ exposure to cigarette smoke.  A new saliva-based test conducted on children admitted to the hospital for asthma-related issues confirms researchers’ suspicions–nearly 80 percent of the children’s saliva showed traces of cigarette smoke, but only a third of the parents had reported known cigarette exposure.  More from Reuters:

What’s more, finding evidence of nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, in children’s saliva was a better predictor of whether they would need to come back to the hospital, compared to the information parents gave to doctors.

“We think saliva is a good and potentially useful test for assessing an important trigger for asthma,” Dr. Robert Kahn, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health.

Previous research has found that being exposed to tobacco can lead to airway problems and poor asthma control among children, Kahn and his colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

By figuring out which children are being exposed to tobacco, doctors may be able to step in and identify and possibly eliminate the exposure, said Kahn, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

For example, if a parent is still smoking cigarettes and exposing the child to smoke, doctors can offer the parent smoking cessation tools while the child is hospitalized.

For the new study, the researchers assessed data from 619 children admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for asthma or other breathing problems between August 2010 and October 2011. The children were between one and 16 years old.

Image: Asthmatic child, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Number of Teens Trying E-Cigarettes Doubled in the Past Year

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The number of teenagers who say they have tried smoking cigarettes has stabilized over the past year, but those who says they have tried nicotine by using electronic cigarettes–a habit known as “vaping”–has doubled in that same period of time, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The study also revealed that an increasing number of teens are smoking flavored tobacco at hookah lounges, or smoking cigars–all before they are legally allowed to use tobacco products at age 18.  More from Boston.com:

This bad news, reported Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, puts even more pressure on the government to strictly regulate e-cigarettes and other forms of tobacco as stringently as they regulate cigarettes….

….Unfortunately, e-cigarettes are cheaper, easier to access, and marketed more heavily to young people than traditional cigarettes, which fuels the teen vaping trend according to the CDC’s senior scientific adviser Brian King.

New rules are expected to be issued within the next few months by the US Food and Drug Administration, but no one knows how tough they will be.

About 90 percent of adult smokers become addicted to tobacco by the time they finish high school, so public health experts believe efforts to keep teens from lighting up could be the ultimate solution to solving the nation’s smoking problem once and for all.

The CDC report was based on a 2012 survey of nearly 25,000 middle and high school students in the United States and found that e-cigarette use increased among middle school students from 0.6 percent in 2011 to 1.1 percent in 2012. The percentage of high school students smoking e-cigarettes increased in one year from 1.5 percent to 2.8 percent, and those smoking hookahs increased to 5.4 percent from 4.1 percent.

“These percentages may seen low, but they account for nearly 2 million students,” King said, many of whom mistakenly believe that e-cigarettes are harmless and that hookah use is safer than cigarettes. King stressed that the tobacco burned and inhaled from hookahs may deliver even more harmful carcinogens, and e-cigarettes are like the “wild, wild west” with no one knowing exactly what they contain.

Image: Electronic cigarettes, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment