Gene linked to longtime smoking habit

By Sheryl Kay • Published: November 20th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Longtime cigarette smokers often express true enjoyment with each puff. Now research shows the root of that initial gratification may be genetically based.

Scientists who specialize in statistical genetics recently concluded a study analyzing smoking data from more than four-hundred individuals. The findings, published in the journal Addiction, indicated a strong association between a variation in a certain nicotine receptor gene and the likelihood that someone becomes a longtime smoker.

Two groups were analyzed, a nonsmoking group that included people who had smoked at least one cigarette but no more than a hundred in the past, and a smoking group that had been smoking at least five cigarettes a day for at least five years.

Results showed the variation in the gene was present far more often in the smoking group. Additionally, that same smoking group was eight times more likely to report enjoying the smoking experience right from the very first cigarette.

Study authors also noted a paper published in Human Molecular Genetics just one year ago indicating the same variation in the gene was tied to a smoker’s potential for nicotine addiction.

The research team found that while the evidence does show strong links, other environmental and social factors must also be taken into account when assessing the likelihood that a person might become a longtime smoker.

The hope? That gene-specific targeted therapies will be developed that might help curb the craving and the satisfaction from smoking cigarettes.