New Zealand Herald
August 15, 2002
Even light smoking can make people grumpy and less able to handle stress, says a British study.
New Zealand anti-smoking lobby group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said the study results, published in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour, dispelled the myth that smoking had a calming effect.
Researchers from London's King's College subjected two groups to "a battery of cognitive tests that were mildly stressful".
Males and females who smoked between five and 12 cigarettes a day were tested immediately after smoking.
The second group were non-smokers.
The two groups were equivalent in age, intellect, personality measures, and levels of anxiety and depression.
The researchers found the smokers' group was "overall significantly more discontented, troubled, tense, quarrelsome, furious, impatient, hostile, annoyed and disgusted and experienced greater dizziness".
After cognitive tests, "both male and female smokers showed greater increases than non-smokers in feeling spiteful, rebellious, incompetent".
They also exhibited greater sweating, "suggesting that they experienced greater mood changes in response to cognitive stress".
No difference was apparent between the two groups for divided or sustained attention tasks or in episodic memory.
In this month's Ash newsletter, director Trish Fraser said the study was further evidence of myths that tobacco companies used to lure people into smoking.
"We hear a lot about the long-term serious health dangers of tobacco but this study makes the point that tobacco smoking has some immediate effects on mood and ability," she said.
"The tobacco industry has for decades promoted users of their products as calm, confident individualists in control of their own lives.
"However, this marketing image doesn't match up in practice against the sweating, impatient, incompetent person you can become if you smoke even a small amount."