Does smoking really help a person think more clearly ?
From recent scientific studies, the answer is a clear
In one of these studies, psychologist George
Spilich used three test groups of people. The first
group consisted of "nicotine-free" people, that is
non-smokers. The second group consisted of
"nicotine-saturated" people, that is, smokers who were
actively smoking at the time of the tests. The third
group consisted of "nicotine-deprived" people, that is,
smokers who were not allowed to smoke for a period
before and during the tests, and were perhaps suffering
from nicotine-withdrawal symptoms.
The tests were all based on the subjects' response to
stimuli flashed on computer screens. In the first one,
the subjects had to pick out a target letter among an
array of letters which were flashed on the computer
screen. All they had to do was press the space bar when
they spotted the target letter. In this simple test, it
was found that the three groups performed equally well.
The second test was more complex. The subjects had to
scan sequences of 20 identical letters and respond the
instant any of the letters transformed into a different
one. In this test, the non-smokers were the quickest way
to react. Under the stimulation of nicotine, the active
smokers were quicker to react than the deprived smokers.
The tests got more complex. The third one involved
short-term memory. For this test, the subjects had to
remember a particular sequence of letters and numbers
and respond when that sequence appeared amidst an array
of sequences on the screen. In this test, non-smokers
performed the best. The interesting result was that the
deprived smokers committed fewer errors than the active
smokers in this test.
The fourth experiment involved
analytical thinking as well as memory. the subjects had
to read passage and then answer questions on it.
Non-smokers were able to remember 19 percent more of the
information than active smokers. Again, the deprived
smokers performed better than the active smokers.
final test got the subjects performing in a driving
simulator on the computers, like the ones in video
arcades. Subjects had to operate a steering wheel, the
accelerator, brake and gear shift. Obstacles would
appear on the screen, such as oil slicks and sharp
corners. Again, the non-smokers performed the best,
being involved in the most collisions, more than the
"As our tests became more complex,
non-smokers outperformed smokers by wider and wilder
margins," said Spilich.
From the results of these
tests, Spilich also concluded that a "smoker might
perform adequately at many jobs – until they got
complicated". He could drive a car satisfactorily so
long as everything remained routine, but if a tyre blew
out at high speed he might not handle the emergency as
well as a non-smoker. A smoking airline pilot could fly
adequately if no problem arose, but if something went
wrong, smoking might impair his mental capacity. It can
also be seen from these tests that, for the more
complicated tasks, deprived smokers were able to think
more clearly than active smokers.