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Does Smoking Make You Dumber?

Long-term smokers performed "significantly worse" on cognitive tests, in a new study.

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By Valerie Tejeda

05/16/13

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Would you quit smoking if you knew that it damaged not only your lungs, heart, throat and mouth, but also your brain? According to new research from the Department of Mental Health at the University of Aberdeen in England, smoking cigarettes can actually decrease intelligence over time. The study, published in New Scientist magazine, examined the cognitive abilities of 465 people—half of them smokers—over the course of 60 years. The participants were first tested in 1947 at 11 years of age, and again when they were 64-years-old. Compared to non-smokers, and those who had quit, the consistent smokers performed "significantly worse" in five different cognitive tests. Taking into account external factors such as occupation, alcohol consumption and education, cigarette smoking was still found to reduce cognitive function by a little under 1%. Researchers attribute this drop in cognitive abilities to the fact that smoking impairs the functions of vital organs—including the brain. They stress the importance of quitting the habit and increased anti-smoking efforts across the globe.

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