Second-Hand Smoking Damages Everyday Prospective Memory

Sep 11, 2012 by Sci-News.com

According to a team of scientists at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK, non-smokers who live with or spend time with smokers are damaging their everyday memory.

Couple lighting each other’s cigarettes, the Netherlands, 1932 (Nationaal Archief @ Flickr Commons)

The new study, published online in the journal Addiction, explores the relationship between exposure to other people’s smoke and everyday memory problems.

The scientists compared a group of current smokers with two groups of non-smokers – those who were regularly exposed to second-hand smoke and those who were not.

Those exposed to second-hand smoke either lived with smokers or spent time with smokers, for example in a designated ‘smoking area,’ and reported being exposed to second-hand smoke for an average of 25 hours a week for an average of four and a half years.

The three groups were tested on time-based memory (remembering to carry out an activity after some time) and event-based memory (which refers to memory for future intentions and activities).

The team found that the non-smokers who had been exposed to second-hand smoke forgot almost 20 per cent more in the memory tests than those non-smokers not exposed. However, both groups out-performed the current smokers who forgot 30 per cent more than those who were not exposed to second-hand smoking.

“According to recent reports by the World Health Organization, exposure to second-hand smoke can have serious consequences on the health of people who have never smoked themselves, but who are exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke,” said lead author Dr Tom Heffernan of the Northumbria University’s Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group.

“Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with second-hand 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 second-hand smoke, health problems and everyday cognitive function,” he concluded.

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Bibliographic information: T.M. Heffernan, T.S. O’Neill. 2012. Exposure to second-hand smoke damages everyday prospective memory, Addiction; doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.04056.x