Early Signs of Addiction in Teens Who Smoke

Mark Rubinstein, MD
Mark Rubinstein, MD

By Steve Tokar

The brains of adolescents who smoke as little as two cigarettes a day respond to images of smoking as do the brains of heavily addicted adult smokers: with pleasure.

People who begin smoking in adolescence are more likely to become lifelong smokers than people who start smoking later in life.
Mark Rubinstein, MD, associate professor in the UCSF School of Medicine

A study by UCSF’s Mark Rubinstein, MD, finds that the threshold for nicotine addiction in teenagers might be much lower than is commonly believed.

“Most smoking cessation programs require that you smoke at least ten cigarettes per day,” says Rubinstein, associate professor and adolescent medicine specialist in the Department of Pediatrics at UCSF’s School of Medicine. “Below five [cigarettes per day], it’s very controversial as to whether you are even addicted, even if you are smoking daily.”

For the study, which was supported by an award from the Strategic Opportunities Support (SOS) program of UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), Rubinstein recruited a group of teenagers who smoked fewer than five cigarettes per day, and a matched group of adolescent non-smokers.

Read more at UCSF.edu