Genetics the key to butting out smoking

Scientists have uncovered a clue that may help smokers quit the habit – but what works best, all depends on your genes.

Murdoch University and Perron Institute researcher Professor Sulev Kõks has identified the genetic markers associated with nicotine dependence, finding that every smoker is different.

Dr Kõks says this means current quitting methods need correction and different people require personalised support systems.

“Smokers have different biochemical networks or genes that maintain their nicotine dependence, so we need different approaches for different groups of people,” Dr Kõks said.

“Some people need nicotine substitution, while others would benefit from behavioural support.

“This personalised support would increase the efficiency of the attempts to quit smoking, which is currently notoriously low.

“It is estimated that 70 per cent of smokers would like to quit but they don’t.”

Dr Kõks says tobacco kills more than 20 000 Australians every year and one in every seven deaths is caused by smoking.

He says this simple and avoidable change will dramatically increase life expectancy.

“Smokers lives are 10 years shorter than non-smokers,” Dr Kõks says.

“After quitting smoking for five years this difference is gone.”

Cancer Council Make Smoking History manager Libby Jardine agrees that multiple addiction treatments are necessary to increase quitting efficiency.

“We know from evidence that the most effective way to quit smoking is with a combination of behavioural support and stop smoking medications,” Ms Jardine says.

“This should involve specialised services such as Quitline and also stop smoking medications such as nicotine replacement therapy.”

Ms Jardine said more needed to be done to reach an acceptable standard of smoking.

“Australia needs more evidence-based action to continue the decline in smoking,” said Ms Jardine.

“This includes further increases in the price of tobacco, TV-led public education campaigns, expanding smoke-free environments and greater support for smokers to help them quit.”