We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Does having a smoke make you dumb?

A study claims that the long-term effects of smoking tobacco can impair mental functions. My goodness, what other horrors can the dreaded weed be held responsible for? I don’t smoke and dislike the pong of cigarette smoke in my clothes after visiting a pub, but is there no limit to the ways in which our blessed medical profession want to condemn smoking? The claim rings false to me (I am not a scientist mind so if this can be verified in a peer-reviewed journal, I’ll stand corrected). There have been lots of brainy smokers over the years, surely.

I wonder how many members of Mensa have been smokers?

25 comments to Does having a smoke make you dumb?

  • GCooper

    Johnathan Pearce writes:

    “I am not a scientist mind so if this can be verified in a peer-reviewed journal, I’ll stand corrected”

    Oh, don’t. In general terms, a paper written by a clown, reviewed by other clowns is still deserving of a laugh.

    No matter how many of the clowns have letters after their names and how impressive sounding is the journal’s title.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    GCooper, true. I recall a wonderful spoof Spectator article by the late, much-missed Auberon Waugh that reading the Sun could give one AIDS. I laughed so loud that I was in pain for several hours.

  • Brett

    If this is true, why has the intelligence level on campuses taken a nosedive since the tyrants drove all the smokers away?

  • Bernie

    It doesn’t take a genius to know this must be true:-)

  • Jacob

    Well, maybe it is true. But cause and effect are reversed.

    You need to be pretty dumb, or weak or somehow defective to start smoking in the first place.
    However, this is a hypothesis, not yet published.

  • Jim

    “There have been lots of brainy smokers over the years, surely.”

    Are you sure you’re not a smoker? Because that’s just idiotic. The study – as you would know if you had actually read the story properly – finds that smoking predicts lower IQ and mental proficiency in alcoholics, not that it makes every smoker or an idiot or that there cannot possibly be such thing as a smoking genius.

    Which begs the question: Is there no limit to the ways in which Samizdatistas will take moronic pot-shots at scientists who produce findings they dislike?

  • J

    Jim – Quite so 🙂

    I always worry when people start despising intellectuals – there’s a strong correlation between that and the rise to power of some dystopian regime in the near future. Not that I’m claiming a cause and effect! Heh heh.

    The study is not important, in the sense that the sample is small, and it can’t do more than show a correlation of some kind. Since D and A D is published by Elsevier I can’t get hold of the actual paper without paying a fortune, so who knows what the numbers really say, and how well designed the trial was.

    There seems to be reasonably good evidence that any number of foods and chemicals affect mental powers. Oily fish certainly seems to improve them, cannabis doesn’t.

    I fail to see the link between reasonable scientific research into drugs and the brain on the one hand, and the government banning certain common activities on the other. I suppose the a certain type, it’s all part o the giant statist conspiracy. Hell – I bet some of our taxes funded that so-called scientific study! The horror! The horror!

    And so to bed…

  • xj

    Hmm: insultingly small sample size; blurring of line between cause and effect; use of vague terms such as “abused alcohol” (depending on who’s saying it that could mean two glasses of wine a week or two bottles of vodka a night); most shameless of all, the use of the phrase “much higher risk” without any attempt to quantify it….

    John Brignall‘s going to have a lot of fun with this one.

    The completely unrelated photo of the Chilean sprog was a nice touch. Good to know Reuters’ standards remain as low as ever.

  • GCooper

    Jim writes:

    ” Is there no limit to the ways in which Samizdatistas will take moronic pot-shots at scientists who produce findings they dislike?”

    Probably not, Jim. Especially when those scientists so drearily turn out to have based their ‘science’ on whatever fad or fancy is currently in fashion.

  • Verity

    I would add to what G Cooper said, Jim, by noting that it is passing amazing that scientists seem to find dangerous to the human race those things the collectivists in the Labour cabinet disapprove of. If Labour wants to abolish swings in the school playground, the tame British press will pump out press releases from think tanks and government departments about children getting their ankles twisted when falling off swings and being disabled for life. Vegetables, even. Hundreds if not thousands. In fact, playing on swings when small can jolt human brain cells and cause them to settle in abnormal clusters.

    They’ve already tried to ban the centuries old playing of conkers with “scientific” evidence.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Jim, I read the article. It says that problems with IQ may also be due to the effects of nicotine, ie, smoking. Maybe you did not read the article properly.

    I am a non-smoker and dislike smoking so I have no dog in this fight, BTW, other than a desire for tolerance and a reflexive dislike of the bullying tone of many of today’s anti-smokers.

  • Julian Taylor

    How odd to see a generalised piece of B.S. like that emanating from the USA. I thought that the UK pretty much had the imbecilic “professional medical opinion” sown up, given how that said “opinion” always seems to neatly tie in with Our Little Tony’s current kneejerk views.

  • One thing I know is that smoking turns some non-smokers into complete arseholes. I hate gum-chewing and find it offensive & nasty. Do I want it banned? No, of course, not I just avoid people who chew gum.

  • Phil Andrews

    I seem to recall – years ago now, 70s, or maybe early 80s – a report or study that suggested that smokers were less prone to mental debilitation and senility in old age. I remember wondering at the time if that was because the habit had killed off all the less robust ones before they got old enough.
    It is also well known (just ask the Gummint) that excessive indulgence in alcohol kills brain cells. Presumably the attrition caused by doing so over a lifetime will eventually impact upon mental acuity.

    I agree the report sounds less than entirely convincing – I wonder who contributes to Dr. Jennifer M. Glass research and to the University of Michigan’s Addiction Research Centre.

  • I did a study of smoking in Mensa — came out in a medical journal. See:


  • Verity

    Jonathan, You’ve lived in Britain long enough to know that the American ignorant corruption of the word “dumb” has never been taken up. Dumb is to speech as hearing is to deaf and blind is to seeing.

    When my household goods were unpacked here, I was very impressed with the man who was tasked with unpacking the finer items. He couldn’t speak, but he constantly reassured me, in pantomime, that he knew what he was doing and not to worry, and he did a very good job. I told an American friend about this later, saying “I’m pretty certain he was dumb, but he was very reassuring and certainly knew his job,” and she looked shocked and puzzled. “How could he have been intelligent if he was dumb?” she asked. I told her the definition of dumb, and her face registered a total blank. There is something particularly unpleasant about the degradation of this word – to my mind.

  • Verity

    One the other hand, if smoking caused cancer of the larynx, then I suppose it could make one dumb.

  • susan

    The current crop of Hollywood movies lowers one’s IQ but this does not seem to stop the addicts from forking over ten bucks for a two hour fix in order to satisfy their brain-damaging habit.

    And just because I have to endure Hollywood’s pollution whenever the addicts repeat ad nauseum Hollywood’s stupidity I won’t lead any cause to ban their mental rot.

  • Tobacco is an anti-depressant.

    So is pot.

    Perhaps the folks using this stuff are self medicating.

    Perhaps self medication explains the inelasticity of the drug market.

  • The obvious answer is to get tobacco smokers to switch to pot. It grows brain cells.

  • Nah, pot does not have the same good taste as a nice maduro cigar. And smoking a huge churchill cigar has satisfaction that cannot be obtained from smoking a bong.

  • Active Mensa members in the United States are much less likely to smoke than the general population. Of course, that could be a social artifact. People in Mensa (at least the active ones) tend to be above average in socioeconomic status, more highly educated and thus are more likely familiar with the various arguments against smoking. There really are good reasons to avoid smoking, whatever one thinks in general of the antismoking crusaders. I don’t much care for the crusaders myself.

    Yes, a good deal of medical research must be taken with a grain of salt.

    For what it’s worth, I am quite active in Mensa at the present time. I currently hold the post of Membership Officer (equivalent to VP) of the Metro Washington Mensa local group.

  • guy herbert

    There’s another social affect which could be an extremely powerful one.

    Mensa members are unlikely to be representative of the highly intelligent fraction of the population, since whether one sees personal benefits, or kudos (or shame) in membership depends on certain personality traits. Mensa members are not only intelligent (in the IQ sense) but self-consciously so and proud of it. Becoming a member of Mensa is a lifestyle choice influenced by personality, and so is smoking. Any study seeking to demonstrate a link between IQ and smoking from Mensa members needs to correct for covariance of the personality quirks involved. Hard to do.

  • guy herbert

    And yes, I did choose “affect” over ‘artefact’ or ‘effect’.

  • HJHJ

    I can’t believe that smoking is exactly helpful to any bodily function (including thinking) but I imagine its effect on intelligence is virtually impossible to measure in any modestly funded survey.

    For a start, how do you measure intelligence? What if smoking makes you better at maths but worse at languages? What has happened to your intelligence? Standard IQ tests don’t tell you much – as Gordon Welchman pointed out, Alan Turing did not have a particularly high IQ because he was a deep thinker rather than a fast one. But where would we all be without Universal Turing Machines? Not blogging, that’s for sure.