Gene Gives Smokers a Buzz

By | August 11, 2008

Gene Gives Smokers a Buzz

Genetics may help explain why some smokers are hooked from their first cigarette while other people seem immune to the addictive properties of tobacco, according to the second study in a month to spotlight a connection.

Researchers uncovered a variation in a nicotine-receptor gene that is far more common among smokers than in those who have the occasional cigarette, according to a report in the journal Addiction. People with the genetic mutation were also eight times more likely to have had a positive first experience with smoking, such as a pleasurable buzz that encourages further use.

The findings are particularly alarming because the same receptor has been linked to increased rates of lung cancer in previous research, according to the founder of the University of Michigan’s Nicotine Research Laboratory, Ovide Pomerleau. The gene variation helps ensure the first cigarette is pleasurable, increasing the chances of addiction and raising the risk of lung cancer, he said.

“It’s a triple whammy,” Mr. Pomerleau said in a telephone interview. “This puts the biology, genetics, behavior, and traits of addiction together with one another. In the hands of a medical geneticist, this could be used to identify families that are at extremely high risk and encourage the young people to not even experiment.” – nysun

I must not have the gene. I tried smoking once and found it nauseating.

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