How smoking at the weekends does just as much damage to the memory as daily habit
People who have a cigarette on the weekends may think they are less at risk from the health consequences than their regular smoking peers.
But now British scientists have found social smokers are actually causing as much damage to their everyday memory than those who puff away on a daily basis.
Social smokers performed 'significantly worse' than non smokers on memory tests
A team from Northumbria University studied three groups of 28 undergraduate volunteers: social smokers who had around 20 cigarettes, typically when out at the weekend; people who smoked 10 to 15 cigarettes a day and people who had never smoked.
None of the volunteers used illegal substances and did not drink more than recommended 'safe' weekly amounts.
The participants were asked to remember a series of pre-determined
actions at specific locations when viewing a short video of a busy high
street. For example, they were asked to remember to text a friend when
passing a landmark, or exchange a shop in a certain store. This ability to carry out planned actions in the future is known as prospective memory.
In the first study of its kind, researchers found that both groups of smokers performed 'significantly worse' than those who had never smoked, with no difference according to the pattern of smoking.
Dr Tom Heffernan, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, who conducted the research with Dr Terence O’Neill, said: 'Smoking-related memory decline in general has been linked with increases in accelerated cerebral degeneration such as brain shrinkage.
'This new research suggests that restricting smoking to weekends makes no difference – smoking damages your memory.'
Dr Heffernan has previously shown that smokers could lose around one third of their everyday memory, but this could be restored if they quit.
Participants were asked to recall small details, such as music acts
listed to play at the students’ union and tasks completed at various points
known as a real world memory test.
Smokers performed badly, remembering just 59 per cent of tasks. But those who had given up smoking remembered 74 per cent and those who had never smoked recalled 81 per cent of tasks.
The team said they could next test how prospective memory of smokers and social smokers is affected by real world settings.
'Prospective memory is often carried out over prolonged delays such as hours, day or even weeks,' they said.
The study has been published in the Open Addiction journal.