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Secondhand smoke delivers nicotine to brain: study

May 4, 2011

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Bethesda, MD – Exposure to secondhand smoke impacts the brain in much the same way smoking does, according to a study released May 2 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers determined that one hour of exposure to secondhand smoke in an enclosed space results in nicotine reaching the brain of both smokers and non-smokers in the same way direct exposure to tobacco does.

The study also found that exposure to secondhand smoke leads to cravings among smokers. Because previous studies have suggested that exposure to secondhand smoke makes it more difficult for individuals to quit smoking and makes children more likely to smoke in their teens, researchers said the impact of secondhand smoke exposure on the brain may promote smoking behavior.

“These results show that even limited secondhand smoke exposure delivers enough nicotine to the brain to alter its function,” said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of NIDA. The study was published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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