NIH: Office of Disease Prevention

header image for toabacco use


Tobacco Addiction Research Report

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

This report discusses the harmful effects of tobacco use, risks associated with pregnancy and adolescents, as well as best practices for the prevention and treatment of tobacco addiction.

This section provides examples of recent scientific advances from NIH-sponsored research, and is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

Passive E-Cigarette Exposure May Urge Young Adults to Smoke (July 2014)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

A new NIDA-funded study shows that being around someone who is using an e-cigarette (vaping) can trigger a desire for tobacco cigarettes in young adults who regularly smoke. This passive exposure to e-cigarette use also increased the desire for an e-cigarette. These results highlight the need for more research into the effects of exposure to e-cigarettes in order to help prevent smoking in young adults.

Maternal Smoking Linked to Altered DNA in Newborns (June 2014)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

New research demonstrates that mothers who choose to smoke during pregnancy may actually alter their offspring's epigenetic DNA profile. While the sequence of DNA is inherited from the parents, its structure can be fine-tuned in the offspring, causing lasting changes in gene expression. One such non-inherited, or epigenetic, modification is DNA methylation, in which chemical tags are added to the DNA. In one of the largest studies of its kind to date, researchers from NIEHS and Norway have identified the regions of the genome that are specifically methylated in children from mothers who smoked during pregnancy, compared with children of nonsmokers. Investigators catalogued DNA methylation marks in blood collected from 889 newborns, with 287 newborns from mothers with self-reported smoking during the first trimester, and discovered altered methylation patterns in or near 110 genes. Strikingly, some of these genes are related to the ability to quit smoking, nicotine addiction, and fetal development. This work adds to the growing body of evidence that maternal exposure and behavior can modify DNA during fetal development.

Tobacco, Drug Use in Pregnancy Can Double Risk of Stillbirth (December 2013)

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

Smoking tobacco or marijuana, taking prescription painkillers, or using illegal drugs during pregnancy is associated with double or even triple the risk of stillbirth. Researchers based their findings on measurements of the chemical byproducts of nicotine in maternal blood samples; and cannabis, prescription painkillers, and other drugs in umbilical cords. Taking direct measurements provided more precise information than did previous studies of stillbirth and substance use that relied only on women's self-reporting. "Smoking is a known risk factor for stillbirth, but this analysis gives us a much clearer picture of the risks than before," said senior author Uma M. Reddy, M.D., M.P.H., of the NICHD. "Additionally, results from the latest findings also showed that likely exposure to secondhand smoke can elevate the risk of stillbirth."

Genetics May Guide Ways to Quit Smoking (June 2012)

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)

A new study shows that genetic information can help predict whether medications will be likely to help a person quit smoking. The study brings health care providers a step closer to providing individualized treatment plans to help smokers kick the habit. In a new study, a team of researchers led by Dr. Li-Shiun Chen of Washington University tested whether genetics can be used to personalize therapeutic strategies. “We found that the effects of smoking cessation medications depend on a person’s genes,” Chen says. “If smokers have the risk genes, they don’t quit easily on their own and will benefit greatly from the medications. If smokers don’t have the risk genes, they are likely to quit successfully without the help of medications such as nicotine replacement or bupropion.”

Deaths Prevented Due to Declines in Smoking (March 2012)

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Twentieth-century tobacco control programs and policies were responsible for preventing more than 795,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States from 1975 through 2000, according to an analysis funded by NCI. If all cigarette smoking in this country had ceased following the release of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964, a total of 2.5 million people would have been spared from death due to lung cancer in the 36 years following that report, according to the analysis.

NIH-Funded Study Shows 20-Percent Reduction in Lung Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose CT Compared to Chest X-ray (June 2011)

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Scientists have found a 20-percent reduction in deaths from lung cancer among current or former heavy smokers who were screened with low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) versus those screened by chest X-ray. The primary research results from the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) were published online in the New England Journal of Medicine. This article provides a more extensive analysis of the data originally reported in November 2010, while providing additional data to the public and research community without barriers to access. Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute , part of the National Institutes of Health, the NLST is a nearly decade-long study that establishes low-dose helical CT as the first validated screening test which can reduce mortality due to lung cancer.