personal genetics

Genetic susceptibility to smoking

Decision to Smoke

The future look into potential genetic treatment to quit smoking and some interesting HR policies

Smokers have been broadly criticized for polluting the air around them with second hand smoke and now seeds of discussion are being planted around the implications of hiring smokers.
But where does one’s desire to smoke come from and why do some individuals develop an addiction towards it? A study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, McGill University observe genetic connections to people not being able to put down the pack.

Smokers being filter

Returning to the hiring bias against smokers, the argument promoting gaining information of whether one smokes or not revolves around the notion of productivity. A bias exists that a smoker takes more sick leave that his/her non-smoking counterparts hence effecting productivity. In the case of healthcare workers, it is seen as a poor demonstration of being a role model; hypocritical to preach commandments of health and break them thyself in the eyes of proponents of this hiring filter.1

Where this discussion goes in there near future is an interesting one in terms of HR and ethics but equally if not more interesting is taking one step back and asking ourselves:

Why do some people decide to smoke in the first place?

Is it because they grew up in a house hold in which one of the guardians smoked? A parent perhaps? What do parents pass onto their children? Traits such as eye colour, height, hair type, IQ … genetic information including addictive tendencies and nicotine metabolism.
This hereditary inclination is one pointer to explore the involvement of genetics and the habits of smokers.

Personalized Genetics to Help in Quitting

Current research being conducted at McGill University and Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital looks into correlations between vulnerability to smoking addiction and the roles that certain genes play in the susceptibility.2

The focal mechanism in the study has been nicotine metabolism and results have been presented as follows:

‘[People] with genetically fast nicotine metabolism have a significantly greater brain response to smoking cues than those with slow nicotine metabolism.’2

The study also refers to previous research done in the field around the difficulties individuals with ‘greater reactivity to smoking cues’ or fast nicotine metabolizers face when trying to quit, at the same time respond more actively to environmental cues that promote increased nicotine intake.2

The correlation between nicotine metabolism and success at quitting smoking may pioneer treatments to help individuals quit by way of personal genetics.2