Remember that awful Camel cigarettes campaign that included the cartoon “Joe Camel?” I never smoked Camels, (although my first cigarette was a non-filtered Camel stolen from the back of my grandfather’s Buick) but that cartoon always grossed me out. I remember one time my friend Jessie pointing out the similarity of his face and a penis. I hadn’t put that together consciously, and maybe not subconsciously either. Well, at least sex wasn’t turning me away from my Winston Lights.
Shortly after that we heard this from an American Medical Association study:
In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that by age six nearly as many children could correctly respond that “Joe Camel” was associated with cigarettes as could respond that the Disney Channel logo was associated with Mickey Mouse, and alleged that the “Joe Camel” campaign was targeting children
It wasn’t really “news”, we knew that thousands of smokers die every day and have to be replaced with new consumers, and who is stupid enough to start a habit that smells, costs a lot and sends you to an early grave? You guessed it- teenagers.
I don’t think R.J. Reynolds was out there doing genetic studies; there was enough empiric evidence to show that teenagers thought smoking was cool. All they needed was a little exposure as kids and you basically could Pied Piper them to the corner liquor store.
Results of a recent New Zealand GWAS study shows some evidence that certain genotypes are associated with cigarette addiction, when the smoking was initiated in the teen years. A GWAS study is a Genome-Wide Association Study. They look at a large number of people, and a lot of genetic variations (we all have them) and see if there is a relationship between the variation and some factor like smoking. (A simple analogy would be a study of people with Blood Type A, looking at whether they smoke more than people with other blood types.)
This is what they found:
Genetic risk score was unrelated to smoking initiation. However, individuals at higher genetic risk were more likely to convert to daily smoking as teenagers, progressed more rapidly from smoking initiation to heavy smoking, persisted longer in smoking heavily, developed nicotine dependence more frequently, were more reliant on smoking to cope with stress, and were more likely to fail in their cessation attempts. The genetic risk score predicted smoking risk over and above family history.
I personally don’t know many teenagers at present, and not sure if there’s pressure to smoke. I would think there’s more pressure right now for a teen to get a tattoo than smoke a cigarette, but I think it’s worth it to throw it out there to parents of teens and young kids to think about how they are going to talk to their kids about smoking. I know from experience that “just say no” doesn’t work. I had a friend in high school whose dad made a deal to give her $1000 on her 18th birthday if she’d never smoke. It worked. I’m not suggesting that bribing kids is the way to go, but you know what works for your kids. It costs a lot to genotype them to find out their risk, but that’s not really necessary. Talk to them.
The link to the article is here: