Tag Archives: teen smoking

Good news everyone … teen smoking AND vaping both drop

Great news again.

For the first time in five years, not only did teen smoking drop this past year, but the teen vaping rate also dropped … and by quite a bit.

This is according to figures released last week by the Centers for Disease Control.

Teen vaping use had increased dramatically from 2011 to 2015 (from less than 2 percent to 16 percent in just four years). Why? Kids were seeing lots of advertising in teen magazines and on TV making e-cigs look cool and hip … and harmless. In the long run, despite an initial investment, they’re cheaper than cigarettes. And most of all, they used to be really easy to buy — and still are pretty easy to buy online.

From 2015 to 2016, teen vaping actually dropped a bunch, from 16 percent to 11.3 percent. That’s roughly a 30 percent decrease.

Meanwhile, teen smoking dropped to an all-time low of 8 percent (high school students). Man, when I first started this blog over on blogspot 10-12 years ago, the teen smoking rate was still 22.5 percent. It frustrated the crap out of me because year after year, it refused to drop.

Amazingly, 19 years ago, it was over 35 percent! (Thanks, Joe Camel). Now, it’s down to 8. That is roughly a 72 percent decrease in 19 years. And the combined teen smoking/vaping/chewing rate (essentially any tobacco product) is down to 20.2 percent.

Preteen girl tries e-cigarette with her friend

the past couple of years have been frustrating, as well. While it was great to see the the smoking rate among teens dropping dramatically, the teen vaping rate was increasing during that time just as dramatically. What that meant is that roughly the same percentage of kids were still getting addicted to nicotine, but that they had just discovered a new delivery system.

Matt Myers, from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids responds: “This is unimaginable, extraordinary progress. This is a change of a cosmic nature that has the potential to dramatically impact lung cancer, heart disease, asthma and other problems.”

Robin Koval with the Truth Initiative said these latest numbers might be showing that smoking its on its way out for good. Cigarette smoking has really dropped dramatically just in the past five years for a variety of reason — the popularity of vaping, cigarette taxes, the stigma of smoking and smoking bans being the main reasons.

I want to make it clear, I don’t have a problem with adults vaping, especially if it’s helping them quit smoking. I do have a problem with teenagers getting hooked on nicotine to begin with via vaping. And I really have a problem with some of the reckless advertising being done by vaping brands. It’s still nicotine and it’s still one of the most addictive substances on the planet.

Anti-tobacco advocates had a variety of theories behind the dramatic dropoff in teen vaping (one advocate suggested that the experimental allure of e-cigs has worn off). I have a theory that I think more vendors are cracking down on selling vaping products with an ID … and more states are not allowing vaping products to be sold to teens or even to people under 21. This Washington Post article points out that the feds sent out more than 4,000 warning letters to retailers cautioning them against selling e-cigs to minors.

Anyway, it’s looking good for the moment, though the FDA has delayed implementing regulations over e-cigs … and who knows what the Trump administration is going to do on this issue. I have zero trust in them.

 

 

 

 

 

NPR report: French teens continue smoking despite government crackdown

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Heard a radio report on NPR last week  about how efforts to curb teen smoking in France are flagging, because smoking is still considered hip and suave among French youths.

According to NPR, smoking remains wildly popular among teenagers in France. This despite a very aggressive anti-smoking campaign in France over the past several years. (Check the photo I included of a French anti-smoking ad. That image of a girl giving a blow job to a tobacco executive? That’s a real French anti-smoking ad. There’s another one with a teen boy.).

Anyway, according to NPR, in spite of all the anti-smoking efforts, smoking remains deeply entrenched in French culture  About 40 percent of French teens smoke, according to NPR. That compares to less than 10 percent of American teens that now smoke (Smoking among teens in America has declined partly because of an aggressive Truth anti-smoking campaign and higher cigarette taxes,  and to a very large extent because of the meteoric rise of popularity of e-cigarettes among kids.).

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Real, honest-to-goodness French anti-smoking ad

France is implementing a number of measures to cut that smoking rate, including bans on menthol cigarettes and prohibiting sweet e-cigarette flavours. France will also soon mandate disgusting images of tobacco-related diseases on cigarette packs and  there have also been some very edgy anti-smoking ads there over the years and the government will crack down on tobacconists who don’t card underage customers. Apparently, in France, tobacco shop (cigarettes are primarly sold in tobacco shops in France) owners have not been carding kids buying cigarettes.

Interestingly, kids interviewed by NPR said the plain packages won’t stop them from smoking, but higher taxes probably would. Higher taxes in America have proven very effective in pricing kids out of the cigarette market. Teens simply can’t afford the $6 to $8 a pack cigarettes cost in most places.

One quote in the NPR piece made me kind of want to smack this kid (metaphorically smack her … I would never actually smack a kid around). From the story:

Smoking is often popular among girls, who see it as a rite of passage and a part of French culture, says Naomi Finel, 16.

“If you’re young and you walk in the streets and you’re in Paris, you will see people at cafes smoking and having a glass of wine,” she says. “And it’s like, ‘Good. They seem happy. They seem to enjoy their life.'”

Oh, honey, you little French nitwit. They won’t be enjoying their smokers’ hack in the morning. They won’t be enjoying their loss of lung capacity. They won’t be enjoying their arthritis, heart disease, COPD or cancer that their smoking will likely give them. Smoking is not about joie de vivre, smoking is death.

California raises smoking, vaping age to 21; e-cigs banned in public buildings

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California is the latest entity — and the biggest — to raise the age for buying cigarettes and vaping products to 21 (There’s a misunderstanding here, it’s not against the law for 18-year-olds to smoke or vape … it’s against the law to sell products to people under 21 now.).

This is one area where I’m not 100 percent on board with the rest of the  tobacco control community. There is a part of me that thinks when you’re 18, you can vote, join the military and go to prison for committing a crime; you’re considered mature enough to vote and do prison time, but not smoke? I’m still struggling with this, though virtually the entire rest of the tobacco control community is in favour of it.  The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (the group’s advocacy affiliate), the American Lung Association and the president of the California Medical Association all came in favour of the California law.

Interestingly, I think lawmakers in California listened to some of these concerns. People in the military between 18 and 21 are exempted from the law (though I need to follow up later on a story that the military is cracking down on tobacco sales on its bases.).

California now joins Hawaii and New York City and a few other places that have raised the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21.

Perhaps this will be effective in stopping kids from not only smoking but vaping. One reason I remain a bit skeptical about how effective this law will be is most kids don’t start smoking or vaping after they turn 18; most of the time they start when they’re 13 or 14 years old. Maybe it will be harder for their 18- and 19-year-old friends or siblings to buy their tobacco products for them. We’ll see. If the teen smoking and vaping rates go down in five years because of these laws, I’ll be more

From CNN.com:

“[These laws] will save countless lives, reduce astronomical costs to the health care system, and cost very little because it uses existing enforcement mechanisms,” said Senator Ed Hernandez, who authored the bill to raise the age of tobacco products. “Today was an enormous victory for not only this generation, but also for many generations to come who will not suffer the deadly impacts of tobacco.”

One thing I like is that the bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed also prohibit the use of e-cigs in public buildings, even in bars.

From the L.A. Times:

The e-cigarette is nothing more than a new delivery system for toxic and addictive nicotine,” State Sen. Mark Leno said Wednesday. “Ensuring that e-cigarettes fall under California’s comprehensive smoke-free laws is critical to protecting public health, especially given the alarming rate at which young people are picking up these devices.”

What I like most about the law is that it actually makes it a criminal offence — a misdemeanor, not a citation — to sell or buy cigarettes or vaping products for underaged users. Basically, the same as alcohol. That should put a dent in retailers selling vaping products to teens.

Taking a closer look at teen smoking trends; what a long, frustrating trip it’s been

Teen smoking rate

Yesterday, I posted about a Washington Post article examining the dropping smoking rate in the U.S. since 1970. As part of that article was information about teen smoking. I thought it was worth exploring in a second post.

Cutting the teen smoking rate is critical to stamping out smoking because virtually no one takes up smoking past the age of 21. Most smokers started when they were 16, 15, 14 years old. If a kid can make it to 19 without taking up smoking, he or she will likely never take up smoking.

It’s been a very frustrating battle to cut back on teen smoking, with both Big Tobacco and Hollywood conspiring to fight anti-tobacco efforts. However, the teen smoking rate has absolutely collapsed in the past couple of years; unfortunately, not necessarily for a good reason.

Teen smoking rate2

 

I made a second graph using my Excel skillz showing the teen smoking rate, then added some explanations for what has been going on for the past 25 years.

The teen smoking rate was incredibly high in the 1990s, peaking in 1997. What is considered the biggest culprit for this? Joe Camel. Joe Camel was introduced by RJ Reynolds in 1987 and was a disgustingly brazen attempt by RJR to lure teens into the smoking world with an aggressive campaign showing Joe Camel as cool, suave, sophisticated, hip, etc. Joe Camel was portrayed as an Air Force pilot, a motorcyclist, a James Bond character, etc.

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RJ Reynolds never copped to this of course, but internal documents released by the various court cases confirmed it. According to these documents:

  1. A) In 1974, RJR’s Vice-President of Marketing gave a presentation that “young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow’s cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume – for at least the next 25 years.”
  2. B) A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because “virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25” and “most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18.

So they were absolutely going after kids. Joe Camel was incredibly successful. The teen smoking rate in 1991 was 27.5 percent and by 1997, it had grown to 36.4 percent (even as the adult smoking rate was plummeting during this time).

Then came along the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998. The MSA is much-maligned for not doing as much as it could have to stamp out smoking, but it did one extremely important thing — it banned Joe Camel. RJ Reynolds and other tobacco companies were no longer allowed to use cartoon characters (Many years ago, Kool used a cartoon penguin to market its brand) in their advertisements. One of the other things the MSA banned was the product placement of tobacco products in Hollywood movies.

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No more on-screen smoking for you, Wolverine

This had a remarkable effect on reducing teen smoking, as did the billions of MSA funds spent on tobacco education programs in schools. The teen smoking rate dropped down to 21.9 percent by 2003.

Then a very weird thing took place. The teen smoking rate actually went UP in 2005, to 23.0 percent. What happened? One very big thing. States began to figure out they weren’t actually required to spend MSA funds on tobacco education and cessation programs and they started diverting the MSA payouts to their general funds simply balancing their budgets. Funding for anti-tobacco programs dried up. And the teen smoking rate rose. It was an incredibly frustrating period.

The other bizarre thing that happened is that even though placement of tobacco products was specifically banned in Hollywood movies, the rate of smoking scenes in PG-13, PG and even G movies actually went UP … even though Hollywood supposedly wasn’t collecting a nickel from Big Tobacco. They were literally giving Big Tobacco free advertising because Hollywood was stuck in this insane notion that smoking was cool and hip.

When it became apparent that Hollywood studios were part of the problem, a movement began to require an R rating for smoking scenes. Finally in 2008, the MPAA agreed to consider R ratings for smoking scenes. The policy isn’t perfect, but I think it’s actually worked, because movie studios don’t like R ratings and they just don’t want to bother butting heads with the MPAA over these ratings when they plan well ahead of time for movies to be rated PG-13. So, even well-known smoking Marvel characters such as Wolverine and Nick Fury were forced to stop chomping their cigars.

So, that teen smoking rate started dropping — to 18 percent in 2011 and 15.7 percent in 2013. Partly because of the lack of smoking in movies marketed to teens, I believe and partly because of the great work done by the Truth Campaign, a non-governmental, non-profit organization that’s been around since the late 1990s fighting teen smoking with a series of really good anti-smoking ads on TV and YouTube. Truth was originally funded with MSA funds, but that source has dried up and is now funded by donations and savvy investments.

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Kids using e-cigs … it makes me crazy.

The recent rapid drop in teen smoking is great, except for one caveat. The biggest reason for the recent collapse in the teen smoking rate (now, down below 10 percent) is the rapid rise in the popularity of e-cigs. The teen use of e-cigs tripled from 2013 to 2014 and in fact now, many more teens vape (13.4 percent in 2014 and I guarantee that number is higher now) than smoke. This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, teens aren’t smoking. But, on the other hand, they are getting addicted to nicotine. No nicotine addiction at all is the ideal. And studies have shown that a higher percentage of kids who vape eventually take up smoking than those who don’t vape. The Food and Drug Administration plans to ban e-cig sales to minors, but they need to crack down on e-cig marketing to teens (e-cig companies are using the EXACT same marketing techniques as Big Tobacco did 20 years ago to appeal to teens) and online sales of e-cig products.

 

More bad news about teens and e-cigs — e-cig use among kids tripled from 2013 to 2014

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Man, this is frustrating news. Teen smoking down, of course, but down for the wrong reason — because a LOT more kids than ever are now “vaping” instead.

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A recent Centers for Disease Control survey shows that the use of e-cigs has tripled in just one year among teens (from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent).  More kids are using e-cigs today than cigarettes (9.2 percent).

 

This is such a “good news, bad news” scenario. The good news is the rate of teen smoking is at its lowest level ever record — 9.2 percent. However, the bad news is, e-cigs still contain nicotine and are still turning teens into nicotine addicts. Nicotine all by itself is bad for your blood pressure.

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I get that e-cigs don’t appear to be as deadly as cigarettes and that they might help some people quit cigarettes, but kids are using them as an out-and-out substitute for cigarettes is not good news. And it really torques me when e-cig companies employ the same ad techniques used by tobacco to make e-cigs looks sexy and suave.

From a Washington Post article:

The use of e-cigarettes among teenagers has eclipsed the use of traditional cigarettes and all other tobacco products, a development that Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called “alarming” and “shocking.”

“What’s most surprising is how in­cred­ibly rapid the use of products other than cigarettes has increased,” Frieden said in an interview, adding that some e-cigarette smokers would undoubtedly go on to use traditional cigarettes. “It is subjecting another generation of our children to an addictive substance.”

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed rules to ban the sales of e-cigs to minors (this rules have been in the “proposed” stage for over a year, but took a completely hands-off approach to a number of other problems with e-cigs, including fairly blatant e-cig marketing to teenagers and surgary flavourings designed to make e-cigs more palatable to teens.

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Sexy e-cig ad

 

On the surface, that might seems like good news, given the hundreds of thousands of Americans that still die from smoking each year. And it might be. “The drop in cigarette use is historic, with enormous public health significance,” said Matt Myers, with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But, he was quick to add, “the explosion of e-cigarette use among kids means these products are being taken up in record numbers with totally unknown long-term consequences that could potentially undermine all the progress we’ve made.”

Washington attorney general proposes raising smoking age to 21

18-year-old smoker

This is an issue where I tend to split off from a lot of anti-tobacco advocates.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a bill last week to raise the smoking age in Washington from 18 to 21. It’s an effort I can’t totally get behind for several reasons.

First of all, when do most kids start smoking? Virtually no kids actually start smoking when they turn 18. Most kids start smoking at 14 or 15 or even younger. So, I have to question if such a law would get much accomplished in stopping kids from smoking. Most kids have already been smoking for at least three or four years by the time they turn 18. Putting off the legal age for buying cigarettes another three years isn’t going to change that.

Secondly, I have a Libertarian enough streak that I buy the argument that at 18 kids can vote, join the military and go to prison for committing a crime. They can do anything except buy alcohol or weed — and I have a  Socialist enough streak to see the logic behind laws trying to keep alcohol away from 18- and 19-year-olds, because 18-year-olds aren’t smart enough yet to know when they’ve had too much to drive, etc. (Like everyone over 21 is, but you see my point.).

Anyway, I’m all for keeping kids from cigarettes, but the best tactic is education, and spending resources on educating kids on why tobacco is bad, rather than spending resources trying to enforce a new law.  I’m for common-sense solutions that I think will actually accomplish something, and I don’t see the common sense in raising the smoking age to 21.

 

Good news, bad news — CDC: Teen smoking lower than ever, but largely because of e-cigs

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According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control released this week, the teen smoking rate in the 2013 dropped to its lowest recorded level — 12.7 percent (down from 14 percent in 2012 and 15.8 percent in 2011).

This is pretty impressive when you consider the teen smoking rate was 28 percent in 2000, so the rate has been cut by more than one-half in 13.

Sounds great at first, unfortunately, there’s more to the story. Anti-tobacco education funding has been dropping for the past 15 years, so what’s really behind these numbers (I would like to think that seeing less smoking in movies and TV is a factor.)?

Unfortunately, the rise of e-cigs is probably one of the biggest factors. According to the group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the rate of teens using e-cigs has jumped from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 4.5 percent in 2013 (in raw numbers, that’s an increase from 250,000 kids in 2011 to 760,000 kids in 2013).

Combine the smoking and e-cig numbers (crude mathematics, because it doesn’t take into account kids smoking and using e-cigs both, but I’m just doing it to make a point). In 2011, that combined number would be 17.3 percent of kids using some nicotine product. In 2013, number would be 17.2 percent using a nicotine product.

I believe that is probably giving a pretty fair picture of what’s really going on. Fewer kids taking up smoking, more kids taking up e-cigs.

Now, e-cigs are not as bad as cigarettes, they don’t contain anywhere near the same level of carcinogens as cigarettes, but they still contain nicotine, which isn’t any good for you and is incredibly addictive. Also, the jury is out about whether e-cig use will eventually lead to cigarette use.

Numbers on a smaller scale from the state of Minnesota paint a similar picture.

From a Minneapolis Star-Tribune article:

An estimated 15,000 students have tried e-cigarettes without having tried any traditional tobacco products before, according to results from the 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey released Monday. Overall, 12.9 percent of high-schoolers said they had tried e-cigarettes in the 30 days prior to the survey.

By comparison, just 10.6 percent of high school students said they had smoked traditional cigarettes within the previous 30 days — down from 18.1 percent in 2011.

The survey, which included more than 4,200 students from 70 schools, suggests that e-cigarettes are now more popular among teens than the real thing.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is using these numbers as a clarion call for the Food and Drug Administration to crack down harder on e-cigs.

The FDA a few months ago proposed a set of regulations on e-cigs that were fairly lax. The best part of these proposed regulations was banning sales to kids under 18. However, there was absolutely zero in the proposed regs to crack down on e-cig advertising, which uses many of the same techniques used by cigarette makers to make cigarettes look cool and suave. Activists also want the FDA to crack down on sweet flavourings for e-cigs (I’m not as worked up about this, but I do want the FDA to curtail the advertising.).

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids sees it the way I do:

This increase [of e-cig use] comes as e-cigarette makers have marketed their products with the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads, sponsorships of race cars and concerts, and sweet flavors such as gummi bear and cotton candy.

Minnesota officials agree:

Given looser restrictions on marketing “vaping” products, Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state health commissioner, said he worries that Minnesota youths will try the new devices and eventually develop addictions to nicotine.

“I have a real sense of déjà vu about e-cigarettes,” said Ehlinger, who cited the youth marketing — now outlawed — that drew children and teens to cigarettes years ago.

Good news everyone, teen smoking rate drops to lowest point in 22 years

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Good news. According to new figure from the Centers for Disease Control, the smoking rate for teens has dropped to 15.7 percent, the lowest in 22 years that the National Youth Risk Surveys have been tracking the smoking rate.

The high point (or low point depending upon your perspective) of teen smoking rates was in 1997 at an astounding 36.4 percent. In 1998, the rate began dropping, in one year to 34.8 percent. Why? One big reason. The much-maligned Master Settlement Agreement.

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I’m the first guy to say the MSA didn’t do nearly as much as it should’ve, nor as much as we all thought it was going to do when it was announced. The biggest problem is not nearly enough money was earmarked for tobacco education, but one of the good things that came out of that agreement was that it killed Joe Camel.

Joe Camel and other cartoon characters promoting tobacco products were banned by the 1998 MSA. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but check this out — teen smoking rates by year: 2001, 28.5 percent; 2003, 21.9 percent; 2005, 23 percent (about the time tobacco education funds started getting cut); 2007, 20.0 percent; 2009, 19.5 percent; 2011, 18.1 percent; 2013, 15.7.

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A steady decline, with one blip in 2005, since Joe Camel was killed off. Now, the teen smoking rate is less than half it was 22 years ago. This is how we’re really going to win, not with regulations, but with education. Smoking is no longer seen as being cool and hip by a lot of teens today — at least 84.3 percent, and that has been through education.

One concern I do have is that perhaps one of the reasons the teen smoking rate has dropped so dramatically is because more kids today are using e-cigs. No data to back that up … but a bad feeling I have. While e-cigs are not as bad as cigarettes, nicotine is nicotine, addictive as crap, no matter what the delivery system.

 

Study: Kids who smoke pot do better in school than kids who just smoke cigarettes

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OK, NOT an endorsement for kids smoking dope, but an interesting study out of Canada. I think this study speaks more toward the attitudes toward dope and tobacco than the actual health effects of dope and tobacco.

According to this study, kids who just smoke pot have better grades and do better academically than kids who just smoke cigarettes. This study was done over the course of 30 years and to me the really interesting information that came out of it is that far fewer kids smoke cigarettes today than 30 years ago, while more kids smoke pot.

According to the article:

… and those that do (smoke cigarettes) make up a very “marginalized, vulnerable” population, says lead study author Michael Chaiton, assistant professor in epidemiology and public health policy.

This tells me that the most ostracised, least engaged kids, probably kids that will end up as dropouts, are the ones smoking cigarettes, while a lot of all-around average kids are smoking pot now, because even among kids, smoking is no longer seen as cool.

The article states this as much:

“Now there is a distinction between marijuana use and co-use with other substances, and it’s an indication of the changing social norms. So it’s not an absolute that they do better; it’s that social norms have changed and the population of people who use marijuana are more like the general population,” said Chaiton.

Another interesting stat — 92 percent of tobacco smokers also smoke dope, while only 25 percent of pot smokers also smoke tobacco. So, it’s really not an “either or” situation. Most of those cigarette smokers are also smoking pot. It has to do with attitudes toward cigarettes and pot … and what kind of kids are smoking cigarettes or pot in light of those attitudes.

Again, I’m not a fan of kids smoking dope, but they are going to smoke pot. Pot is becoming more and more socially acceptable for adults to the point where two states have legalised it, and I predict it will be legal in several other states within the next two or three years — and when it becomes more socially acceptable for adults to use it, it’s pretty tough to tell kids “none for you.” The attitudes toward pot are pretty similar to the attitudes toward beer.

Now, the study doesn’t say much about how kids smoke pot do academically versus kids who don’t use any drugs (one of the commenters on the article pointed this out.) The article contains this single sentence:

 Marijuana users don’t outperform non-users, Chaiton says.

It would be nice to see more information than that in the study.

 

Weird … study: Cigarettes may alter teens’ brain structure, make them more prone to other addictions

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From Discover Magazine.

A study recently published in Neuropsychopharmacology shows that something called the “insula,” which is part of the cerebral cortex, is thinner in the brains of teens who smoke versus teens who don’t smoke.

The insula helps govern emotions and consciousness and it also contains a lot of nicotine receptors so is part of the brain where the craving for nicotine comes from.

According to the Discover article:

“It looks like, even in these very young kids, there is a link between the structure of the insula and the extent to which they smoke and become dependent,” London said in a Neuropsychopharmacology podcast. “It was shocking. We are beginning to get a story of the functional neuroanatomy of smoking.”

Although the study illustrated a difference in brain structure of young smokers and nonsmokers, it did not establish whether smoking caused the variations. It could be that people with differently structured insulas are more likely to take up smoking for an unknown reason. However, the results pave the way for future studies to determine the actual cause and effect.

“Ideally one would start the study in 12-year-olds who haven’t begun to smoke; follow them out after they begin to smoke; and see if in fact the smaller insula thickness was a predictor of a predilection to become a smoker,” London explained in the podcast.

On the other hand, if London’s team finds proof that smoking causes thinning of the right insula, it would provide further evidence of the detrimental health effects of picking up the habit at a young age

And this is why this is important. It could be that kids prone to addictive behaviour already have this thinner insula, or that smoking creates more addictive behaviours later (I’ve long said that pot is not really a gateway drug, but cigarettes are. Almost all drug addicts started using cigarettes as their first drug).

According to the original article:

Cigarette dependence and the urge to smoke were negatively related to cortical thickness in the right ventral anterior insula. Although the results do not demonstrate causation, they do suggest that there are effects of cigarette exposure on brain structure in young smokers, with a relatively short smoking history. It is possible that changes in the brain due to prolonged exposure or to the progression of dependence lead to more extensive structural changes, manifested in the reported group differences between adult smokers and nonsmokers. Structural integrity of the insula may have implications for predicting long-term cigarette smoking and problems with other substance abuse in this population.