Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Link found between smoking and brain damage

The July issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry will include a report that demonstrates a link between smoking and brain damage.

Though there is already ample evidence of the harm that cigarette smoking causes, this new evidence may cause yet more people to stop their habit of smoking. As Woody Allen joked, "My brain? That's my second-favorite organ." Yep. For many, risk of damage to one's brain is scarier than mere death (though perhaps not as scary as risk of damage to one's first-favorite organ).

As those in Homeless World Sacramento readily know, smoking in the community is very common, despite its high expense. Rollies are frequently shared, serving both a social purpose and a function of calming the smoker.

According to a Medical News Today article, researchers with the Indian National Brain Research Center (NBRC) "have found that a compound in tobacco provokes white blood cells in the central nervous system to attack healthy cells, leading to severe neurological damage." The compound is known as NNK.

The article tells us that "unlike alcohol or drug abuse NNK does not appear to harm brain cells directly. However, the research team believes it may cause neuroinflamation, a condition which leads to disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis."

SacHo will follow-up on this story after the research report is made available.

UPDATE 6/25: Polling by Gallup shows the poorer a person is, the more likely it is that he/she is a smoker. This information suggests strongly that much of the revenue gained from increased cigarette sales taxes should be used to help poor people quit the smoking habit. Otherwise, the tax is alarmingly regressive.

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