Weekend smoking can damage your memory

People who smoke only at weekends cause as much damage to their memory as those who smoke on a daily basis, according to research from Northumbria University.

Academics from the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group in Northumbria’s School of Life Sciences tested 28 social smokers – those who smoke around 20 cigarettes once or twice a week, typically when out at the weekend – 28 people who smoke 10-15 cigarettes daily and 28 people who had never smoked on a video-based prospective memory test.

Participants were asked to remember a series of pre-determined actions at specific locations when viewing a short clip of a busy high street. For example, they were asked to remember to text a friend when passing a particular store.

In the first study of its kind, researchers found that both groups of smokers performed 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.”

The study has been published in the Open Addiction Journal.

Full bibliographic information

The Open Addiction Journal, 2011, 4, 72-75