Home » News » Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Can Harm Memory

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Can Harm Memory

Non-smokers who regularly breathe in secondhand smoke are at risk for memory damage, according to researchers from Northumbria University.

This is the first study of its kind to investigate the relationship between exposure to other people’s cigarette smoking and everyday problems with memory.

Psychologists Drs. Tom Heffernan and Terence O’Neil, both researchers at the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group at Northumbria University, compared a group of current smokers with two groups of non-smokers.

The first non-smoking group was regularly exposed to secondhand smoke and the second group was not.

The group of non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke either lived with smokers or spent time with smokers, such as in a designated “smoking area,” and reported being exposed to second-hand smoke for an average of 25 hours a week for an average of four and a half years.

All three groups were tested on time-based memory (remembering to carry out an activity after some time) and event-based memory (which refers to memory for future intentions and activities).

Results showed that the non-smokers who had been exposed to secondhand smoke forgot almost 20 percent more in the memory tests than the non-smokers who had not been exposed.

Both groups out-performed participants in the smoking group who forgot 30 percent more than those who were not exposed to secondhand smoking.

“According to recent reports by the World Health Organization, exposure to second-hand smoke can have serious consequences on the health of people who have never smoked themselves, but who are exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke,” said Heffernan.

“Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with secondhand smoke exposure extend to everyday cognitive function. We hope our work will stimulate further research in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the links between exposure to secondhand smoke, health problems and everyday cognitive function.”

The study is published in the latest online edition of the journal Addiction.

Source:  Northumbria University


Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Can Harm Memory

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Can Harm Memory. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.