Lisa Dierker, chair and professor of psychology, Jennifer Rose, research associate professor of psychology and two postdoctoral fellows, together with researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, are the co-authors of two new papers examining nicotine dependence in teen smokers.
“The Natural Course of Nicotine Dependence Symptoms Among Adolescent Smokers,” was published March 15 in the peer-reviewed journal, Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Wesleyan Postdoctoral Fellows Weihai Zhan and Arielle Selya contributed to the paper. The researchers followed novice adolescent smokers, as well as those who had never smoked before, for four years. They found that, before smoking 100 cigarettes, 20 percent reported “smoking to relieve restlessness and irritability,” and “smoking a lot more now to be satisfied compared to when first smoked,” both considered symptoms of nicotine dependence. This is the first study to describe the natural course of nicotine dependence specifically among adolescent smokers who had not yet reached the 100-cigarette milestone.
The paper is available to read online here.
According to Dierker, “These findings add to a growing body of research showing that for some adolescents, nicotine dependence symptoms develop soon after smoking begins and at low levels of cigarette use. Because these early emerging symptoms represent a substantial risk for developing chronic smoking behavior, it is important that new adolescent smokers are not neglected in smoking prevention and cessation programs.”
A second study, “Risk Factors for Adolescent Smoking: Parental Smoking and the Mediating Role of Nicotine,” was published Feb. 24 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. It is available online here.
While it is well documented that having a parent who smokes increases a teen’s risk of smoking, this study sought to explain the pathways controlling this relationship. The researchers found that maternal smoking significantly increased the likelihood that teens would experience greater sensitivity to nicotine dependence symptoms at low levels of smoking. “This may be the result of shared genes between parent and child that promote sensitivity to the effects of nicotine or due to substantial second-hand smoke in the home that may prime children to develop dependence symptoms relatively quickly after they begin smoking, but in either case suggests that children with parents who smoke are an important group with whom to intervene.” To inform the design of effective interventions, research focusing on both potential genetic markers and environmental risk is ongoing with this high-risk sample.