Second-hand smoke is bad for your memory

The memory of a non-smoker could be damaged if they live with a cigarette user, new research has found. Published in the journal Addiction, the study revealed even just spending time with someone who smokes can have an impact in this regard.

Dr Terence O'Neil and Dr Tom Heffernan of the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group at Northumbria University found those exposed to second-hand smoke who do not use cigarettes forgot almost 20 per cent more in memory assessments than those who do not tend to be around individuals lighting up.

Moreover, those who regularly smoke forgot 30 per cent more than their non-smoking counterparts.

Dr Heffernan noted: "Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with second-hand smoke exposure extend to everyday cognitive function."

He added further work in the field should enable a better understanding to be developed regarding the links between second-hand smoking, cognitive function and general health.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Lance Workman comments:

""It has been known for some time that smoking leads to deficits in memory with heavy smokers showing more of an impairment than light smokers. If we think of passive smokers as being the equivalent of light smokers then the results make a lot of sense – they are intermediate in terms of memory loss when compared to heavy smokers and non-smokers.

"The mechanism that causes this memory impairment is still a matter for debate. We know that nicotine causes various specific neurones to alter their firing rate so perhaps this change in neuronal activity has a long term damaging effect on memory. In either event it is another example of just how dangerous passive smoking can be both to our physical and our mental well-being."