Studies: Nicotine does not improve your ability to think. Smokers do less well in tasks requiring understanding and problem solving than nonsmokers and abstaining smokers. (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. p 15. PA: Rodale Press, 1990.)

Specific substances (e.g., caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates) definitely impact the brain and brain function. (Greenfield, Susan, Con. Ed. Brain Power. p 90-94. Great Britain: Element Books Limited, 1999.)

Avoid smoking. Nicotine can decrease blood flow to the brain, especially to temporal lobes. It can reduce activity across the entire cortex, especially in the temporal lobes and areas of pre-frontal cortex. Amount of brain damage can differ for different individuals. (Amen, Daniel G., MD. Change Your Brain Change Your Life. p 209, 240-242. NY:Times Books, 1998.)

Nicotine stimulates the neurons in the cortex to fire more actively. This usually lasts for only a short period of time. (Bragdon, Allen D., and David Gamon, PhD. Brains that Work a Little Bit Differently. p 118. NY: Barnes and Noble Books, 2000.)

Initially nicotine directs blood flow to brain cells that need to focus and acts like acetylcholine by stimulating cells involved in arousal and attention. Long-term negative effects far outweigh these initial benefits, however:

  • Increases free radical production
  • Promotes plaque formation
  • Causes excitotoxicity
  • Increases levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide
  • Reduces amount of oxygen

(Guiffre, Kenneth, MD, with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain. p 33-39. NJ:Career Press, 1999.)

Studies of fathers: Toxins in smoke can reduce sperm count and increase risk of fathering a child with learning deficits, hyrocephalus, or facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy). Of mothers with direct or side smoke: can reduce child’s stature, hearing, maturation rate, and IQ scores by average of 9 points. (Diamond, Marian, PhD, and Janet Hopson. Magic Trees of the Mind. p 78-80. NY:A Dutton Book 1998.)

Avoiding smoking, alcohol, and drugs during pregnancy may help prevent a higher risk of developing ADHD or similar behavior in offspring. Synergistic effects with female birth control pills: can double the half-life to approximately 12 hours. (

Studies suggest that the use of nicotine during teenage years, while the brain is still developing, may change the brain in ways that facilitate the addiction process. Early exposure to nicotine may also heighten response to other addictive drugs. (Early Nicotine Initiation Increases Severity of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA NOTES, July, 2004, Volume 19, Number 2. p 10.