Health Headlines: How genetics impact smoking risks

Start your day with 7 News Sunrise
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 8:01 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Of the 45.3 million people who smoke, each metabolizes nicotine at a different rate of speed. Researchers know if they need more nicotine more often, they are genetically predisposed to finding it harder to quit. So, a Vanderbilt University study used enhanced treatment counseling, along with patches and gum, to see if more high metabolizers would quit.

“What happens, biochemically, when someone smokes a cigarette is that the nicotine is absorbed through the lungs and very quickly goes to the brain, which provides the pleasant effects of nicotine,” explains assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Scott Lee, MD, PhD, MPA, MPhil.

Some smokers who quickly metabolize nicotine are almost immediately looking for more. It’s also very hard for them to quit.

“Now, we’re starting to understand that genetics shapes parts of smoking,” Dr. Lee further explains.

Dr. Lee and his colleagues studied 321 smokers, of which 241 had the high-metabolizing gene. They used patches and gum, but added psychological and emotional support to see if more smokers would quit.

“Providing more behavioral support to fast metabolizers increased that quit rate to 17 percent,” Dr. Lee adds.

That’s significant for long-time smokers like Elizabeth Jajko, who smoked a pack a day for 18 years.

Jajko tells Ivanhoe, “I had a blood clot in my leg. I’m prone to them.”

Dr. Lee says, by combining the traditional patch and gum with emotional and psychological support, it makes all the difference. These health coaches remind smokers why they want and need to quit.

“It works, but it’s just like anything, you have to really want to, you know. You have to put your mind to it,” Jajko emphasizes.

Post-study, some participants received telephone calls from a state quitline to continue cessation counseling and they were given free nicotine patches. Vanderbilt provided other participants with extra tobacco treatment counselors for emotional support. Dr. Lee advises checking with programs near where you live to increase your chances of quitting.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.