Mizzou Research: Cigarettes Change Your Personality

Sep 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm
Researchers say smoking is correlated with impulsiveness.
Researchers say smoking is correlated with impulsiveness.

It's bad for your lungs. It's bad for your skin. It's bad for your heart. But is smoking really bad for your personality?

Yes, say researchers at the University of Missouri, who believe that quitting smoking can give people a charisma boost. And in Missouri, where 23.1 percent of adults smoke, the fifth highest rate in the country, we have a lot of room to grow.

The researchers compared current smokers with former smokers among the young adult population, and they discovered that folks who'd stopped lighting up showed less impulsiveness, neuroticism, anxiety and negative emotions than active puffers. Their study will be published in an upcoming issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

We all know, of course, that correlation doesn't equal causation. And, at least in the case of impulsiveness, it appears that smoking isn't necessarily the cause, but rather the effect. So rather than insisting on cold-turkey efforts during their quests to quit, smokers might be better off trying to cut down on their generalized tendency to act impulsively, say the researchers.

"If we can target anti-smoking efforts at that impulsivity, it may help the young people stop smoking," Andrew Littlefield, a Mizzou doctoral student and part of the research team, told the university's news service.

Littlefield stresses that this strategy might only work for young people, before deeper nicotine dependencies take hold.