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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
September 29, 2012

Smoking and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke May Make You More Forgetful

A new study shows that breathing in tobacco puffs may affect your memory. By Charlene J. Owen

Inhaling secondhand smoke has been said to be more damaging to your lungs than puffing on a cigarette yourself, but reports that researchers have recently discovered that it's not just your breathing that's compromised; your memory suffers as well.

Dr. Tom Heffernan and Dr. Terence O'Niel from the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group at Northumbria University aim to learn more about the relationship between smoke inhalation and poor memory. Their team studied three participant groups, namely smokers, non-smokers who lived with smokers, and non-smokers who were not exposed to secondhand smoke. All three groups were given time-based memory tests (in which they needed to carry out certain tasks after a specified amount of time) and event-based memory tests (in which they needed to remember intentions for future activities).

The results revealed that those exposed to secondhand smoke forgot their tasks 20 percent more often than those who weren't. Smokers had it worse at 30 percent.

Dr. Heffernan explains, "Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with secondhand smoke exposure extend to everyday cognitive function. We hope our work will stimulate further research in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the links between exposure to secondhand smoke, health problems, and every day cognitive function."

Smoking is a personal choice, while living with a smoker may be something people can't do much about. For those who can't let go of the habit, try to be considerate of those who choose not to pick it up. Your concern may actually help them stay physically and mentally healthy.

(Photo by Fried Dough via Flickr Creative Commons

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