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Medicine Science

Young Men Who Smoke Have Lower IQs 561

Posted by kdawson
from the correlation-is-not-causation dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Science Daily reports on a study that has determined that young men who smoke are likely to have lower IQs than their non-smoking peers. In the study, conducted with 20,000 Israeli Army recruits and veterans, the average IQ for a non-smoker was about 101, while the smokers' average was more than seven IQ points lower at about 94, and the IQs of young men who smoked more than a pack a day were lower still, at about 90. (These IQs all fall within the normal range.) 'In the health profession, we've generally thought that smokers are most likely the kind of people to have grown up in difficult neighborhoods, or who've been given less education at good schools,' says Prof. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychiatry, whose study was reported in a recent version of the journal Addiction. 'Because our study included subjects with diverse socio-economic backgrounds, we've been able to rule out socio-economics as a major factor. The government might want to rethink how it allocates its educational resources on smoking.' Prof. Weiser says that the study illuminates a general trend in epidemiological studies. 'People on the lower end of the average IQ tend to display poorer overall decision-making skills when it comes to their health,' says Weiser. 'Schoolchildren who have been found to have a lower IQ can be considered at risk to begin the habit, and can be targeted with special education and therapy to prevent them from starting or to break the habit after it sets in.'"
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Young Men Who Smoke Have Lower IQs

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  • I smoke... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ircmaxell (1117387) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:22AM (#31732260) Homepage
    And I find it easier to think abstractly when I do (I did quit for over a year). Smoking forces me to take a break from what I'm doing every once in a while, so I get to separate myself from it. Then I get 5 minutes or so of time to contemplate or for abstract thought. I do honestly find myself more productive when I do smoke. Now, I'm not trying to rationalize it (I hate the fact that I got started again)... Just an observation...
  • Re:I smoke... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zumbs (1241138) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:41AM (#31732450) Homepage
    From what I hear, it is generally accepted that a 5-15 min break every workhour is healthy for you, as well as for your ability to stay focused. I find that if I'm working on a difficult problem, taking a walk while thinking on it is a good way to get ideas for breaking it. Most people just don't take those breaks for a number of reasons, such as forgetting to do it or fear that a boss may think that they are lazy. Smokers, however, have a regular craving, that reminds them to take a smoking break. And it is (still) more acceptable for a smoker to take a smoking break than it is for a non-smoker to take a similar break.
  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nebulus4 (799015) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:43AM (#31732460)
    Or a combination of both?!
  • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gid (5195) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:49AM (#31732522) Homepage

    In college I used to smoke at bars and parties to meet girls, but I never got addicted curiously enough. Eventually I found out that the only girls I met were other smokers, whom I usually deemed less than desirable so basically I stopped smoking.

    It was a good ice breaker tho.

  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hedwards (940851) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:49AM (#31732528)
    Smarter people also tend not to enlist in the military to begin with. I had a naval recruiter after me for the longest time. It was pretty clear that he was angling for people that weren't particularly bright or of much value outside the military where they could be pressed into a job without much required aptitude.

    How it is that people fall for the sorts of lies he was telling me is beyond me, but you do have to account for the biased sampling selection otherwise you get skewed results. Also people who tend to be more intelligent tend to have better opportunities than the military can provide anyways.
  • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:54AM (#31732570) Journal
    I would not expect intelligence to have any useful correlation, positive or negative, with the physiological aspects of addiction(cravings, feeling like shit when you haven't had any, improvement on next dose, etc, etc.)

    However, one of the abilities that generally falls into the basket of "intelligence" is the ability to do pattern recognition, recognize correlations, and use them to your advantage. There has been some research suggesting that one of the difficulties that people have in quitting any addictive substance is that, when not subject to craving at that particular moment, they consistently underestimate how tempted they will be in the future. It wouldn't totally shock me if smarter people are better at allowing their rational evaluation("No, whenever I 'have just one at the pub', I end up not stopping") to override the consistent emotional underestimate than less smart people are.

    There are, I suppose, a variety of other potential confounding variables. For instance, you'd expect that brighter people, in general, should have a modestly better effort/reward ratio than less smart ones. This could easily result in an upbringing that encourages greater obedience to rules and instructions from others that seem to have a realistic basis.(If your parents tell you that you should be sure to work hard in school, and you do, and get good results, this is encouraging. You obey the instructions, and receive praise and recognition. If you obey the instructions; but aren't sharp enough to garner the richest rewards, you are likely to be less encouraged to do so in the future.) In most contemporary societies, there are a variety of risk/reward tradeoffs available. If you are smart enough(and aren't a member of some particularly despised underclass/race/whatever), you have likely had greatest access to the high end of the "low risk/low reward" strategy pool(and the high end of which is basically the "low risk/medium to good reward" pool, pretty attractive). If you are less smart, you are more likely to be stuck with the "low reward" side of the pool if you choose the "low risk" strategy pool. You might, therefore, be induced to (rationally) choose the "high risk" strategy pool.

    More generally, the specific cigarettes case aside, I'd be interested to see some mixture of economic and sociological analysis looking at that question. Are people, in fact, substantially irrational, choosing(if one can be so optimistic as to assume that they do in fact choose), courses of action that are just plain stupid as the emtional and instinctive heuristics of a hunter-gatherer collide with modernity? Or are they actually acting rationally(if not always how we'd like them to), if you look at the rewards on average of various strategies, as compared to their other options?
  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:55AM (#31732578) Journal

    All things being equal, a dumb person and a smart person should have similar addiction risks. Perhaps here we're seeing that smarter people are less likely to become addicts, or maybe their intelligence is able to override the addictive drive.

    My brother, with a degree in Physics and Telecommunications engineering, smokes like a chimney, about a pack a day. Plus he wears patches and chew the nicotine gum. He is well aware of the damage that he is doing to himself. The problem is (I can't remember the slashdot story I reference here) is that it seems to alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia he suffers. Unfortunately for him smoking seems to be getting more and more of an anti-social practice and I doubt that help that condition.

    I personally can't stand the habit, but I realise that marginalising smokers doesn't help them. Despite the fact that this appears to be based in good science I think that most smokers reaction to this news would be to light up so they can cope with the stress of the news. I would like to see smoking handled as a health issue, with incremental taxes on the products driving the prices higher and directly funding health budgets. Those who can afford it could treat the purchase of cigarettes like a good bottle of scotch and those who cannot can have them prescribed by a doctor.

    The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday April 05, 2010 @08:59AM (#31732608) Homepage Journal

    I'd almost be willing to bet that the smart people you know who smoke aren't young. Back in the day, 3/4 of adults smoked, as opposed to today, and the health risks weren't as clear to most back then. Hell, when I went to college you could smoke in class; most of my professors smoked, as well as most of the students. nowdays you can't even smoke in a bar.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:02AM (#31732642) Homepage

    Smoking does seem to correlate with low income, which is all the more amusing considering how expensive smoking is in some places...
    People with very little money, wasting it all on smoking, and then having insufficient money for food and other basic necessities...

  • Ciggarettes VS.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by carp3_noct3m (1185697) <slashdot@warrio[ ... t ['rs-' in gap]> on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:10AM (#31732724)
    When I was in the military, especially on combat tours, I ended up smoking an unhealthy amount to help me cope. When I got off the plane this last time, I quit cold turkey, and now when I smell regular cigarette smoke I can barely stand it. (Which just now made me realize maybe I associate it with bad things and its not just the smoke itself) , I now have moved to pipe tobacco that is all natural with no chemicals, and smoke about once a week for enjoyment while drinking a cognac or brandy. I feel it is much more enjoyable (longer lasting, smells better) and is slightly better for my health (mouth cancer yes, lung cancer no), but I digress, I got into pipe tobacco when I joined the university scene and ended hanging out with professors and philosophy students, of whom a large amount smoke pipes. Ok now I have no idea what the point of the post was, mmm, maybe I just have a low IQ. Oh mondays mornings, I loathe you. On a side note, as a formally staunch anti-weed guy (couldn't hold security clearance if you smoked) I now have had amazing success with my PTSD using weed instead of alcohol to self-medicate.
  • Re:I smoke... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sado196 (1405635) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:20AM (#31732838)
    Take this from a 10 year smoker who's been cig free for 6 years now: You find it easier to think abstractly because when you smoke you are feeding your chemical dependence. That momentary buzz and great feeling when you smoke is you returning to a state just a little better than normal because you've been going through withdraw for the last hour or so between smokes. You think clearer, relax better, and are generally happier because you have just sated your cravings. I smoked for 10 years, and used to think each cigarette helped me feel better and gave me something that was better than everyone else. I'd have a smoke and think straighter, or relax and unwind after a hard day, or just have something to do with my hands. Until you realize that what you consider normal is actually worse than what non-smokers feel is normal, it makes sense to think you're entering a state where things are better than normal. I remember arguing with people who told me this for years until I realized the truth of it about a year after quitting. If you want to think better, try quitting. If you don't want to try or don't want to listen to this advice, you're probably addicted.
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:22AM (#31732850)

    From what I hear, it is generally accepted that a 5-15 min break every workhour is healthy for you, as well as for your ability to stay focused. I find that if I'm working on a difficult problem, taking a walk while thinking on it is a good way to get ideas for breaking it. Most people just don't take those breaks for a number of reasons, such as forgetting to do it or fear that a boss may think that they are lazy. Smokers, however, have a regular craving, that reminds them to take a smoking break. And it is (still) more acceptable for a smoker to take a smoking break than it is for a non-smoker to take a similar break.(emphasis mine)

    My Dad joined the US Navy in '45 (since he was about to be "invited" to join the army). If you smoked, you got a a smoke break every hour. If you didn't smoke, you didn't need a smoke break, now did you? Also cigarettes were free for the sailors -- at least everywhere my Dad was stationed. Philip Morris did his part for the boys. It took Dad 50 years to quit, by which time it was too late.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:29AM (#31732926) Homepage

    Again, I smoke at most half a pack a day, and it isn't uncommon for me to go for days without smoking at all (a good example being when we went to visit my fiancee's sister two weeks ago...didn't have a single cig for a week, nor did I ever feel the need for one)

    Cigs are one of those things where if I have them, that's great...if I don't, I'm not going to go out of my way to get more.

  • by Goaway (82658) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:34AM (#31732970) Homepage

    All the yelling of "correlation is not causation" is pretty much the low mark of intellectual laziness on Slashdot. Most of the time when someone yells that, it actually means "I don't like the results of this research" or possibly "I like to look clever". In this case, I think it means "I only read the headline and I didn't like even that".

  • Re:Duh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:38AM (#31733020) Homepage Journal

    So, if you are looking for a WIFE, then avoid smokers, but if you are looking for a good time, then girls that smoke are a better bet.

    Shouldn't you be busy getting ready for the Masters' Tournament, Mr. Woods?

    And just for the record, that Erin you married looks like a total pain in the ass.

    Seriously, though, the thing about girls who smoke is true. As disgusting as it sounds, the faint taste of cigarettes and alcohol on a woman's breath is quite arousing. Intellectually, I wouldn't want a girl who smokes (and my wife is a non-smoker) and I never really cared for drunk women, but still...

    However, that does NOT mean I'd do Amy Winehouse.

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:42AM (#31733076)

    According to wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations [wikipedia.org]
    Israel is 34th best with a national average IQ of 94.
    IF you're American, don't mock. The US is only 19th best globally with an average of 98.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thrawn_aj (1073100) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:44AM (#31733102)

    That isn't true at all...how many people do you know who sit there saying they have to quit, it's disgusting, etc while they have a cig in their mouth? I have personally known a number of people like that (all of whom smoked more than a pack a day, btw)

    I wouldn't take that too seriously. That's just the socially acceptable way of indulging in a vice. Call it a ritual self-punishment if you will as payment for continuing the vice.

  • Re:Ciggarettes VS.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:46AM (#31733122) Homepage

    Most people I know who are military smoke because.... It's something to do. I had friends that started smoking in the military because it was the only way to make the daily hurry up and wait tolerable.

    A couple swore they could sight in on a target faster because they smoked.

  • Re:Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:53AM (#31733206) Homepage

    I know tons of "smart" people who smoke. Most of them do it to cope with stress and anxiety.

    Despite the fact that it kills you, it's apparently a surprisingly effective antidepressant with very few neurological side-effects. Don't forget the cultural aspect too -- everyone smokes down South.

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2010 @09:54AM (#31733210)

    He doesn't want a wife that is frigid, but one who can be satisfied by one man.

    If you want to get laid, find a woman who wants it and doesn't care who.
    If you want to get married, find a woman who only wants it from you.

  • by Nerdposeur (910128) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:27AM (#31733564) Journal

    Smarter people know its not a good idea to start smoking.

    This is too simplistic. EVERYBODY knows that smoking is bad for you. Some just know in more detail.

    My wife had an in medical school for her anatomy class. He showed the students how to dissect a cadaver, and showed them the horrible, shriveled, black lungs of a deceased smoker.

    And then he went outside and took a smoke break.

    My explanation? There's a HUGE difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems; it asks "how can I reach goal X?"

    Wisdom is a big-picture thing; it asks "what kind of goals are worth having? What is good for me in the long run?" And I think it also includes the willpower to do those things. If you know what's best but don't do it, I'd say that's foolish.

    (And of course, we are all foolish in some ways.)

    Schoolchildren who have been found to have a lower IQ can be considered at risk to begin the habit

    So does having a lower IQ lead to smoking? Or does smoking cause a lower IQ? Or do both result from a worse family environment? Maybe being exposed to second-hand smoke is a risk factor for both, or maybe being exposed to parents who knowingly and daily act against their own best interests stunts a child's desire to reason about the world and encourages them to make foolish, emotional decisions?

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:35AM (#31733642)

    Smarter people have more options then dumb people after they leave high school.

    The following are available with a high school deploma.
    Low paying job where you will be struggling for the rest of your life.
    Military where you probably still won't get paid well but at least you get room and board.
    Religious vocation (But still for most major religions you still need to go threw serious schooling (equivalent to a 4 year degree))
    Speciality training where you can get a decent job at a good rate but you are first to go when the economy goes down.
    Start your own company. (But without chances are if you are unwilling to work for an education you may not be too successful at you own job)

    The military option isn't that bad of a choice if you don't have what it takes to go threw school.

    Now the smarter kids have more options... First they can get a college degree and if they do choose to go to the military they can be an officer which is much better position, as well as many more jobs.

    You bet the recruiter is going off of the ones who weren't too bright. If they were on top of things they would know that going to college there would be better options later on. But these kids probably will end up with hum drum lousy life and the military is a better place for them, and give them the kick in the butt they need when they get out.

  • Look at the map. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nerdposeur (910128) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:42AM (#31733728) Journal

    everyone smokes down South

    As a southerner, I'd like to point out 1) of course we don't all smoke, and 2) while yes, smoking is more widespread in the south, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nevada are all in the top 10. 11, 12 and 13 are Alaska, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it. :)

    Check out this map and the table linked at the bottom: http://www.smokefree.gov/map.aspx [smokefree.gov]

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by huckamania (533052) on Monday April 05, 2010 @11:02AM (#31733982) Journal

    Still, I think the study is flawed. It is more likely that smokers answered enough questions to "pass", filled in the rest as quickly as possible and left to go have a cigarette. I remember taking the pre-enlistment test and the week of testing during boot camp. Both are a pain and are a test of patience as much as anything. The phrase 'hurry up and wait' comes to mind and the too close face of a drill sgt screaming at recruits to stay off his grass. Fun times.

    Don't know what it says about my IQ, but I had the highest score for my entire Company, including the Major.

  • Re:Ciggarettes VS.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:14PM (#31735050)

    Always carried a book in my pants' cargo pocket whenever hurry up and wait was on the horizon. Gosh. That was a long time ago!

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Monday April 05, 2010 @12:24PM (#31735212)

    I read an addict describing fighting an addiction craving as something akin to resisting diarhhea. That scares me.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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