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Researchers Find Genetic Connection To Cigarette Smoking

Certain Gene Found to Influence Why People Start Smoking and Why Some Get Addicted and Others Don't

WASHINGTON - Quitting smoking can be difficult for some and almost impossible for others. The reason -- your genes -- New research has found that a certain gene can make the difference as to whether or not someone will start smoking and then become addicted to the nicotine. In two studies featured in this month's American Psychological Association's journal of Health Psychology, researchers discovered that people carrying a particular version of the dopamine transporter gene (SLC6A3-9) are less likely to start smoking before the age of 16 and are more likely to be able to quit smoking if they start.

In their article, "Evidence Suggesting the Role of Specific Genetic Factors in Cigarette Smoking," psychologist Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., of the Georgetown University Medical Center and her co-authors demonstrated for the first time that a link exists between smoking behavior and the dopamine transporter gene (SLC6A3-9). In their study of 289 smokers and 233 nonsmokers, they found that individuals with an SLC6A3-9 genotype were less likely to be smokers than individuals without that gene. Furthermore, those with that gene started smoking later and were able to quit for longer periods of time than other smokers.

Although many smokers attempt to quit at some point in their lives, only 20 percent actually succeed in quitting, say researchers. In their article, "A Genetic Association for Cigarette Smoking Behavior," Dean H. Hamer, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues found from examining 1,107 nonsmokers, current smokers and former smokers that the SLC6A3-9 gene was associated with certain personality characteristics that influenced a person's susceptibility of being able to start and stop smoking.

A person with the SLC6A3-9 genotype was found to have lower novelty seeking traits than a person without this
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Contact: Pam Willenz
pwillenz@apa.org
202-336-5707
American Psychological Association
24-Jan-1999


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