The Benefits of Tobacco to Longevity and Attention

Monday, August 5, 2013
The Longevity “Paradox” – Tobacco

Smokers die early. How is this ‘truth’ established? Like this. If, this year, the average life expectancy is 78 and you die at 77 and smoke(d), the year you are missing is ATTRIBUTED to smoking, never mind genetics or the other million every day things that could have made you live one year “less”. However, if you live one year “more”, that extra year is NOT attributed to smoking because the ideology says that smoking kills by definition – so it must have been something else that made you live a little longer, but CERTAINLY NOT smoking.

Be that as it may, the hard and empirical evidence (no epidemiological attributions needed) shows that the world’s oldest are or have been all smokers. To avoid sending the “wrong message” (the “right” one being that “smoking kills”), these people are called “exception to the rule”. But are they all exceptions to that rule, or is it just the rule that is flawed by ideology and beliefs?

“There are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and at least 69 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer.”

“In human studies, reported performance improvements with post-trial administration of nicotine have all involved associated learning (Mangan and Golding l883; Colrain et al, l992; Warburton et al, l992)… Nicotine improves performance by increasing the attentional resources available for such strategic processing,” [Rusted JM, et al, “Facilitation of memory by post-trial administration of nicotine:evidence for attentional explanation,” Psychopharmacology, 108(4):452-5, l992].”

“1. Nicotine improves attention in a wide variety of tasks in healthy volunteers. 2. Nicotine improves immediate and longer-term memory in healthy volunteers. 3. Nicotine improves attention in patients with probable Alzheimer’s Disease” – [Warburton D M, “Nicotine as a cognitive enhancer,” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 16(2): 181-91, Mar l992]

…Consider the following from Nicotine and Smoking Benefits:

In a presentation at the 151st annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (June 8, l998 in Toronto), Dr. Paul Newhouse of the University of Vermont reported on his research on treating Parkinson’s disease with nicotine. “Preliminary analysis shows improvements after acute nicotine administration in several areas of cognitive performance.” These areas included reaction time and central processing speed. The researchers also reported that after chronic use of nicotine on Parkinson’s patients, motor function and the ability to move also improved. [Reported by Reuters, 6/8/98, “Nicotine patch promising for Parkinson’s” ].

Going back to the Weston Price quote – “…people living in smoke filled houses only developed TB after switching to a modern diet.”

Consider another idea taken from citations from the aforementioned Nicotine and Smoking Benefits:

“Excess risks of lung cancer found in miners and foundry workers could not be fully explained by the high prevalence of smoking among these occupations,” [emphasis added]. – 0495. University of Zurich, Institute of Pathology (Switzerland). Schuler, G. “Epidemiology of Lung Cancer in Switzerland.”

“Smoking has a protective effect on immunological abnormalities in asbestos workers.” – 0429. Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy (Poland). Lange, A. “Effect of Smoking on Immunological Abnormalities in Asbestos Workers
“Relative risk of lung cancer for asbestos workers was “highest for those who had never smoked, lowest for current smokers, and intermediate for ex-smokers. The trend was statistically significant. There was no significant association between smoking and deaths from mesothelioma.” – 0565. University of London, School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Cancer of the Lung Among Asbestos Factory Workers.”

So it appears that inhalation smoking of tobacco may even provide protective benefits to miners and other workers exposed to asbestos and other inhaled pollutants.

But that’s not the only health benefits attributed to smoking…

Though the risks of smoking are highly publicized, the medical benefits of smoking are rarely mentioned. The greatest risks of smoking come from the tars released during the combustion of tobacco, and these tars are implicated in lung cancer and other breathing disorders, though even the tar apparently has some beneficial effects in protecting the lungs from some noxious particulate matter (e.g. asbestos). According to many studies, the chief medical benefits of smoking are from the nicotine, which occurs naturally in tobacco …

Numerous studies have shown the protective effects of smoking with regard to Parkinson’s Disease and ulcerativecolitis, and an increasing body of research indicates it also helps protect against Alzheimer’s Disease and colo-rectal cancer.

Since these effects are so well known, we have not listed them below but have focused instead on a few more obscure medical benefits culled from the 1984-85 CDC bibliography.
1. Smoking improves human information precessing.
2. Higher nicotine cigarettes produce greater improvements [in information processing]
than low-nicotine cigarettes.
3. Nicotine tablets produce similar effects.
4. Nicotine can reverse the detrimental effects of scopolamine on performance
5. Smoking effects are accompanied by increases in EEG arousal and decreases in the latency of the late positive component of the evoked potential.” – 0574. University of Reading, Department of Psychology (England). Warburton., D.M.; Wesnes, K. “The Effects of Cigarette Smoking on Human Information Processing and the role of Nicotine in These Effects ”

Here are some other citations regarding various other health benefits associated with tobacco smoking as well:

– “In general, motor performance in all groups improved after smoking.” 0530. London University, Institute of Psychiatry. O’Connor, K.P “Individual Differences in Psychophysiology of Smoking and Smoking Behaviour

– “Smokers in general are thinner than nonsmokers, even when they ingest more calories.” [Numerous studies, but only two are listed below] – 0885. Kentucky State University. Lee. C.J.: Panemangalore. M. “Obesity Among Selected Elderly Females In Central Kentucky.” FUNDING: USDA 0942. University of Louisville. Belknap Campus School of Medicine.Satmford, B.A.; Matter, S.; Fell, R.D., et al. “Cigarette Smoking, Exercise and High Density LipoproteinCholesterol” FUNDING: American Heart Association.”

– ” …all smokers had less plaque, gingival inflammation and tooth mobility than nonsmokers and similar periodontal pocket depth.” – Veterans Administration, Outpatient Clinic (Boston). Chauncey. H.H,; Kapur, K.K.; Feldmar, R S. “TheLongitudinal and Cross-Sectional Study of Oral Health: in Healthy Veterans (Dental Longitudinal Study)

– “Smokers have lower incidence of postoperative deep vein thrombosis than nonsmokers.” – Guy’s Hospital Medical School (England). Jones, R.M. “Influence of Smoking on Peri-Operative Morbidity.”Hypertension (High blood pressure) is less common among smokers.

– “Hypertension prevalence rate among smokers was 3.94 percent; among nonsmokers the rate was 4.90 percent.” – 0146. Shanghai Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases. Chen, H.Z.; Pan, X.W.; Guo, G. et al. “Relation Between Cigarette Smoking and Epidemiology of Hypertension.

– “Hypertension and postpartum hemorrhage were lower in smokers.”
0045. University of Tasmania (Australia). Correy, J.; Newman, N. Curran, J. “An Assessment of Smoking in Pregnancy.”

– “RBCs [red blood cells] from cigarette smokers contain more glutathione and catalase and protect lung endothelial cells against O2 [dioxide] metabolites better than RBCs from nonsmokers.” – 0759. University of Colorado. Refine, J.E.; Berger, E.M.; Beehler, C.J. et al. “Role of RBC Antioxidants in Cigarette Smoke Related Diseases.” Jan 1980 – continuing. (A number of studies in the 1991 CDC bibliography describe the apparent protective effect of smoking with regard to mouth ulcers).

Science is conclusive: Tobacco increases work capacity 


  • Nicotine improves human brain performance 
  • Is the bad reputation of smoking undeserved? 
  • Professor: About time the positive side of tobacco is emphasised

By Niels Ipsen, environmental biologist & Klaus Kjellerup, researcher 


– After 40 years of scientific research on the effects of nicotine, researchers now say that they have sound scientific proof that smoking and nicotine have a significant positive effect on human brain performance.

The brain works better when it gets nicotine – almost like an optimized computer. Nicotine is a “work-drug” that enables its consumers to focus better and think faster. The brain also becomes more enduring, especially in smokers: Nicotine experiments show that smokers in prolonged working situations are able to maintain concentration for many hours longer than non-smokers.

Generally nicotine boosts the brain to work 10-30% more efficiently in a number of areas. This is especially true for smoking – but also true when using smokeless nicotine. But at the same time, when smokers and nicotine users abstain, they experience a perhaps equally great decline in the effect. This is called the “withdrawal effect” – a nicotine craving, especially for smokers.

Thus the difference between smoking and smoking abstinence is very pronounced for a smoker – a difference of perhaps as much as 50%. And, according to the scientists, this answers the question: Why do people smoke? The answer is simple: Because smoking boosts their brain power.

Nicotine boosts attention, 
precision, motor skills, 
speed and memory
– In 2010 the U.S. government published a groundbreaking meta-analysis, which summarizes the last 40 years of knowledge about tobacco and nicotine effects on the brain. The analysis was conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, headed by researcher Stephen Heishman: Meta-analysis of the acute effects of nicotine and smoking on human performance. Abstract: (3) – full text (4).The results in Heishman’s analysis gives the clear impression that it could turn out to be a very bad idea to try to “eradicate” tobacco. For nicotine has positive impacts in the areas of motor skills, attention, focus, speed and memory – and the effect is significant, the researchers say: The results are not due to statistical chance. Heishman’s team examined all 256 published non-medicinal nicotine tests carried out since 1994 when they conducted a similar study. The tests measured both the effect of cigarettes on smokers – and the effect of non-smoking nicotine on non-smokers. 

– 48 of the best quality trials were selected for the meta-analysis following strict scientific criteria: They had to be placebo controlled – with nicotine-free patches and nicotine-free cigarettes – and double blinded, so no subjects knew whether they had received nicotine or not. 

Furthermore only trials in which none of the smokers were craving tobacco were used. Thus Heishman excluded the risk that smokers may have performed unusually well because of their relief from the withdrawal effect. 

The analysis paints a picture of nicotine as an effective and fast acting drug, which improves the brain’s performance in work situations – a genuine “work-drug”. Unlike drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and heroin, which are not useful during work. 

So apart from the health hazards of cigarettes, it seems the only drawback of nicotine is the addictive effect, although this is still controversial among scientists, and should not be confused with dependence on narcotics. And although pure nicotine is poisonous in large doses, there is no evidence of health risks from nicotine in the amounts in which it is consumed using tobacco.

Why are many scientists, 
athletes and artists smokers?
– The positive effect on the brain may explain why many of history’s greatest scientists have been avid smokers – for example Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, both of whom praised the effect of tobacco on their scientific thinking.Furthermore, it is known that many athletes, creative people, stage performers, writers, musicians and artists through time have been smokers. The nicotine in cigarettes appears to have been particularly important for people who need to produce something unique or competitive in their work.– Top footballers, in particular, have often surprised the media when it emerged that they were avid smokers, while they were at the peak of their careers. For example, the puritanical British media people couldn’t imagine that a top player like Wayne Rooney would be able to deliver top performances for his team, when they revealed it as a scandal, that Rooney is a smoker (5). 

– The truth is however, that some of the world’s most creative stars – like Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov and many other players from the highest levels of football – were avid smokers while they were at the top of their careers – including the Danish 80’s hero, Preben Elkjaer. 

Cigarettes have also always been an indispensable part of soldiers’ field rations, and still are. A war cannot be won without cigarettes, soldiers said (6) – so in 2009 the Pentagon had to drop a proposal to ban smoking in the U.S. Army after very strong protests from soldiers and veterans (7). 

According to Stephen Heishman’s analysis, there is a very good reason why competitive people smoke. This is because of the nicotine boost to the brain – nicotine helps them produce better performances. 

The effects also suggest an answer to the puzzle of why people start smoking and continue on a permanent basis – and the proof comes paradoxically from the results of the effect of nicotine on non-smokers, who also perform better when they get nicotine gum. Heishman writes: 

“… [The fact that] the results are also found among non-smokers is an indirect evidence that nicotine performance enhancing effects may be the reason why people start smoking.”

Nicotine makes the brain 
faster and more precise
The 48 experiments included in Heishman’s analysis consisted of several groups of volunteers who had completed a series of standardized computer tests: One half received nicotine, while control subjects received a placebo. With few exceptions, nicotine users did better in all tests, whether they were smokers or non-smokers. This was especially true in the areas of attention, precision, focus, memory and speed – and to a lesser degree of motor skills: 

Table 1 – from Heishman and others: The table shows nine performance areas that had enough data for the meta-analysis. Six areas showed significantly improved results for nicotine users (red dots) – in three areas results were insignificant (no dots).The biggest improvements: Short term memory, accuracy – working memory, response time – attention, accuracy – attention, speed – orienting attention. Minor improvement: Fine motor skills. (k: number of experiments – N: Number of subjects – Hedges’s g: 0.1: Minor improvement. 0.3: Medium improvement. 0.5: Big improvement.)

– The researchers also found other areas where nicotine users had significantly better outcomes – including gross motor skills, long-term memory, semantic memory, arithmetic & complex calculations. But these experiments were not used in the analysis because there are still too few experiments in these areas.

Are smokers better 
drivers and pilots?
– This applies to experiments demonstrating that smoking and nicotine have a significant positive effect on one’s ability to drive a car (8) and fly flight simulators (9). Smokers and other nicotine users will score better in driving tests, both in overview, focus and steering maneuvers – and they respond quicker on the brakes, when required compared to non-nicotine users.These experiments however could not be standardized for the other trials in the analysis, so Heishman calls for more standardized driving and flight tests with nicotine to get an accurate picture of nicotine effects on motorists and pilots.Stephen Heishman and the research team conclude in the study: 

“The significant effects of nicotine on motor abilities, attention and memory, likely represent true performance enhancement because they are not confounded by withdrawal relief. The beneficial cognitive effects of nicotine have implications for initiation of smoking and maintenance of tobacco dependence.”

Put another way: Smokers smoke and keep on smoking because their brains work better when they smoke. This is probably also the reason that it is hard to quit smoking. And since experimental animals in laboratories have shown similar results, there is no longer any doubt among scientists: 

Nicotine – the active substance in the world’s most unpopular plant – the tobacco plant – is paradoxically a “wonder drug” that leads to better job performance. A gift for the working human being? 

– Tobacco Harm researcher Professor Brad Rodu from Louisiana University says that Heishman’s analysis is a breakthrough in understanding tobacco and nicotine effects. In his article “The Proven Positive Effects of Nicotine and Tobacco” (10) on his blog, Tobacco Truth, he writes:

“This analysis will not please anti-tobacco extremists. It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco. The benefits they get from tobacco are very real, not imaginary or just the periodic elimination of withdrawal.”

Brad Rodu has spent many years working in the branch of tobacco science known as Tobacco Harm Reduction. He is a proponent of allowing all use of smokeless tobacco, for example snus and chewing tobacco, which he believes is “almost 100% safer than cigarettes.” (11) Rodu conducts his own research into the health effects of smokeless tobacco, with funding from an annual “no strings attached” grant from the tobacco industry to Louisiana University. 

“It’s time to abandon the myth that tobacco is devoid of benefits, and to focus on how we can help smokers continue to derive those benefits with a safer delivery system,” Rodu writes. 

Smoking gives
the brain 
more stamina
– Other nicotine tests show results that seriously question the idea of smoking bans in workplaces. Several studies show that smokers’ brains have more stamina in long work situations compared to non-smokers,  providing the smoker can smoke while working. Smokers can maintain concentration for long hours without getting tired, while non-smokers concentration quickly breaks down. This phenomenon was brought to US public attention in 1976 when environmental activist Ralph Nader suggested in a TV program that pilots should be prohibited from smoking on U.S. airplanes for safety reasons. Immediately after this proposal, the news media received a warning from Dr. Norman Heimstra: “A bad idea,” he wrote. (12Dr. Norman Heimstra had done the world’s first primitive nicotine experiments back in 1967 (13). Three groups of people spent six hours in a car simulator – smokers, non-smokers and “abstemious” smokers. Result: The abstinent smokers fared worst in all tests – but the experiment also showed that smokers fared best when the first three hours had passed. At the same time the study revealed that smokers showed no aggressiveness while driving and handled emergency situations better than the other two groups. 

In a critical situation the smoking pilot might well be the best pilot,”  Dr. Heimstra wrote to the media. 

“I would much rather climb into an airplane piloted by a chain-smoker than one piloted by a smoker deprived of cigarettes for a number of hours – not allowed to smoke during flight,” he ended his warning in 1976 – and subsequently the proposal of a smoking ban among pilots was dropped. 

Thirty years after Heimstra’s primitive experiments other tests have confirmed that nicotine gives smokers’ brains more stamina. 

It is illustrated for example in the trial, The effects of cigarette smoking on overnight performance (14) of Parkin & Hindmarch 1997, where smokers and nonsmokers were to do five different computer tests from 8 o’clock in the evening to 12 hours later. In all tests the non-smoker concentration levels broke down after two hours – while smokers could maintain concentration until 4 o’clock in the morning thanks to the nicotine in the cigarettes:
Figure 1 – Parkin & Hindmarch, 1997: – Results from smokers and non-smokers in the test “Critical Flicker Fusion”- used to measure attention: Non-smokers (lower line) became inattentive at 10.00 pm, while smokers (top line) maintained their attention level until 4.00 am even improving their baseline level at 10.00 pm. Not until 8.00 in the morning did the smokers level drop to the non-smoker level 10 hours earlier.

– For years scientists have discussed the “withdrawal” effect in smokers – the phenomenon that smokers themselves describe as “concentration difficulty” when they have not smoked for several hours. In the anti-smoking lobby it is believed that the phenomenon is a simple abstinence effect that smokers can lift by smoking a cigarette again, and thereby return to the same level of performance as “normal people”. 

But this theory no longer holds true after the Heishman analysis. Nicotine in itself creates better performance compared to placebo, whether smokers or non-smokers. But there are scientists who do not believe that the “withdrawal” effect has been proven. 

One of them is nicotine researcher, Professor David Warburton of Reading University, who in a double experiment in 1994 first demonstrated that 100 “abstinent” smokers and 100 non-smokers achieved similar results in three specific figures tests. In experiment no. 2 he repeated the same three tests with only the smokers who were divided into two groups – one that had been “abstinent” for 12 hours, while the second group had smoked one hour earlier: Improvements in performance without nicotine withdrawal (15). 

Both groups were divided into two subgroups, one receiving regular cigarettes, while the other had fake cigarettes. In one task, participants were told to enter the correct numbers in a certain sequence in 20 minutes – and after the first five minutes they should light up a cigarette and take one puff every minute. The results are shown here: 
Figure 1 – Warburton & Arnall, 1994: – The scale shows the number of correct answers, minute by minute. Participants smoked one puff per minute in the period between the dotted lines, from the 6. minute to the 15. minute. The two top lines are the results for nicotine groups – the bottom two are from non-nicotine groups. Each group consisted of one abstinent group & one non-abstinent group.

Result: The number of correct answers rose in the two nicotine groups with approx. 30% from the third cigarette puff. There was, however, no difference in responses between the “abstinent” and the non-abstinent participants. The two nicotine groups had also significantly 10-15% faster reaction time, (not shown in graph).

– The Warburton trial shows specifically that cigarettes’ effect on attention and response time is particularly strong in the ten minutes during which the actual smoking takes place, and in the following minutes. 

He is one of the pioneers of modern nicotine research, after the invention of nicotine pills and chewing gum that allowed scientists to make nicotine trials in non-smokers. It soon became clear however, that the effect of nicotine gum is not as strong as the effect of smoking. As concluded in 1983 by Warburton and Wesnes in a scientific article: Smoking, nicotine and human performance (16):

“[Smoke-free] nicotine produces improvements in mental efficiency, which are qualitatively similar to the improvements produced by smoking, although our findings on vigilance and rapid information processing indicate that the improvements are quantitatively smaller than those produced by smoking.”

David Warburton results were later repeated in many controlled trials of nicotine, including Parrott & Winder i 1989: Nicotine chewing gum and cigarette smoking: Comparative effects upon vigilance and heart rate (17). As the graph shows, smoking is the most effective nicotine delivery method:

Figure 2 – Parrott & Winder, 1989: Differences in rapid visual information processing using cigarettes, nicotine gum (2 and 4 mg) and placebo.

The authors conclude in the article: “People entering smoking cessation programs, should be warned to expect that vigilance and concentration will probably be reduced when they cease smoking. They should also be advised that nicotine gum will probably aid their concentration / attention, although not to the extent that may have occurred with cigarettes.”

Is the smoke-free society 
an economic
growth free society?
– Tobacco has become very unpopular in the West in the last few decades, where authorities have become increasingly tough against smoking because of the health risks from long-term smoking, and because the smoke irritates many non-smokers. This is likely why the beneficial effects of tobacco’s active ingredient, nicotine, has been completely overlooked in the media, which have focused exclusively on the negative health effects of smoking.There still remain many unanswered questions in nicotine research within the scientific community. It is however now an established fact that smoking generally results in better brain performance in smokers, and smokeless nicotine leads to better performance in non-smokers, although to a lesser degree. After Heishman’s analysis, it can also be considered to be true that withdrawal effects lead to weaker performance in abstinent smokers and nicotine users. In a somewhat unscientific way, it is probably safe to say that if non-nicotine users perform 1.0, then nicotine users will perform up to 1.25 – with smokers as the absolute top performers. At the same time nicotine users – especially smokers – who fail to maintain nicotine levels will perform down to 0.75. 

– This fact raises the question: Can nicotine have had a beneficial effect on innovation & growth in the economy in the last century? If this is true, it may help to explain why the productivity of labor in the western world has decreased slightly each year since  the 1970s, when the official health campaigns began to reduce the number of smokers.

One can also raise questions about whether the numerous smoking bans in workplaces could have contributed to the recent large productivity decline. In Denmark an unexpected and inexplicable collapse in labor productivity was apparent in 2007 and 2008 – right after the state banned smoking in all Danish workplaces. (1920)

There may of course also be other reasons for this decrease, but the issue should be explored, as innovation and economic growth has shown historically weak development in countries that have banned smoking in workplaces. It is very likely that governments simply cannot obtain unilateral advantages with huge interventions like the war on smoking and smoking bans. 

Everything has a price, and the advantage of achieving health benefits in the war against smoking may very well be matched by paying a high price in the economy in terms of loss of innovation and economic growth. …

Translation assisted by Iro Cyr & Frank Davis