Here's a New Reason for Quitting Smoking

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For Study's Participants, Quitting Led to Happier Outlook on Life

The study noted that "there was significant variability in depressive symptoms based on abstinence (non-smoking) patterns. Those abstinent at all time points (2, 8, 16 and 26 weeks) had particularly low levels of depressive symptoms at baseline, which remained low throughout the follow-up. Smokers who transitioned from smoking to abstinence and back to smoking showed the lowest levels of depressive symptoms when abstinent, while those who were never abstinent showed gradual increases in depressive symptoms over time."

Quitting, at least in this study, clearly led to a happier outlook on life.

"There's no doubt that quitting smoking is a lot of work and requires a lot of persistence to get through some craving and some negative moods, and nicotine withdrawal," Kahler said "That said, those people who succeeded in quitting were less depressed than they were when they started."

It may be hard, he noted, but "being successful feels good enough to overcome" the demons that haunt the person who is trying to stop.

Studies Continue to Demonstrate Importance of Quitting Smoking

The Brown research is only one of several studies released this week showing just how difficult it can be to stop smoking, and just how important it is to do so.

Scientists in Germany revealed that their research shows that smoking actually thins the brain, especially in the cerebral cortex, an area that is responsible for higher-order functions, like language, information processing and memory. Reduced thickness in that region has been associated with impaired cognition and reduced intelligence.

That same area is also associated with impulse control and reward processing, leading the German researchers to conclude that nicotine may trigger the reward system, thus becoming addictive, in the very part of the brain that is thinning.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, reported that exposure to nicotine during pregnancy can affect the newborn, possibly causing such mental disorders as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. That research was conducted on rats.

Negative findings like those turn up so frequently that one wonders why anyone smokes, and why anyone even starts.

Brown's Kahler speculates that most people start young and don't realize they may be making a lifelong commitment to tobacco.

"Most people start in adolescence," Kahler said. "So understanding why people smoke means understanding why adolescents make some of the decisions they make. They are focused very much on the short term" and they don't think they will be smokers a few years down the road.

"But some get hooked and addicted," he added. "Nicotine sets up a physical dependence and smoking sets up a psychological dependence."

But New Year's Day is just around the corner. Maybe it's time to dust off that old resolution, and get happy.

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