Gene that influences nicotine dependence identified

A DNA variant — located in the DNMT3B gene and commonly found in people of European and African descent — increases the likelihood of developing nicotine dependence, smoking heavily, and developing lung cancer, according to a new study led by RTI International.

Nearly 1 billion people smoke and 6 million premature deaths occur worldwide each year from cigarette smoking, according to the World Health Organization. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and one person dies approximately every 6 seconds from smoking-related causes, according to the WHO.

The new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, is the largest genome-wide association study of nicotine dependence. Researchers studied more than 38,600 former and current smokers from the United States, Iceland, Finland, and the Netherlands.

Full story at Science Daily

Researchers warn of hazards of smoking and need for wider use of varenicline to quit

More than 35 million Americans are trying to quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes causes 480,000 premature deaths each year due mainly to a two-fold risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20-fold risk of lung cancer. In a commentary published in the current issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University reassure clinicians and their patients that varenicline, whose brand name is Chantix, is a safe and effective way to achieve smoking cessation and that failure to use this drug has caused preventable heart attacks and deaths from cardiovascular disease.

In 2006, varenicline was approved as a safe and effective means to quit smoking and achieved permanent quit rates of approximately 25 percent. In 2009, however, varenicline received a black box warning by the FDA based on their adverse event reports of neuropsychiatric symptoms like depression and thoughts of suicide.

Full story of varenicline as effective means of quitting smoking at Science Daily

Higher tobacco taxes needed to reduce smoking rates in South Asia, new analysis says

Higher taxes on tobacco could reduce consumption in South Asia by at least one-third and avoid 35-45 million premature deaths, concludes an analysis published in The British Medical Journal.

South Asia, with a population of 1.1 billion adults, has about 170 million adult smokers — mostly male and mostly from India — and very low rates of cessation.

The analysis, led by Dr. Prabhat Jha, calls on South Asian countries to implement the World Health Organization’s global tobacco control treaty and its requirements for high tobacco taxes, smoke-free public spaces, warning labels, comprehensive advertising bans and support for smoking cessation services.

Full story of higher tobacco taxes to reduce smoking rates at Science Daily

E-cigarettes a gateway to smoking? Not likely

Are e-cigarettes a gateway product that lead more people, especially teens, to smoke regular cigarettes?

No, according to public health researchers from the University at Buffalo and the University of Michigan writing in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“The national trends in vaping and cigarette smoking do not support the argument that vaping is leading to smoking,” said Lynn Kozlowski, the paper’s lead author and a professor of community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Kozlowski, PhD, added that research in the U.S. shows that as use of e-cigarettes — the act of which is known as vaping — has increased, overall smoking rates have decreased.

Full story of e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking at Science Daily

E-cigarettes safer than smoking says long-term study

E-cigarettes are less toxic and safer to use compared to conventional cigarettes, according to research published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists found that people who swapped smoking regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for at least six months, had much lower levels of toxic and cancer causing substances in their body than people who continued to use conventional cigarettes.

For the first time, researchers analysed the saliva and urine of long-term e-cigarette and NRT users, as well as smokers, and compared body-level exposure to key chemicals.

Full story of e-cigarettes safer than smoking at Science Daily