and those that had not. Initially, both groups of rats consumed nicotine at the same rates -- about ten hits per session. After four weeks, the researchers forced the rats to go "cold turkey" for a week, during which they had no access to nicotine.
Once the scientists restored access to nicotine again, they witnessed a dramatic difference in the rates at which the two groups resumed the habit. The rats that had been exposed prenatally took nearly double the nicotine hits compared with those that had not.
While the rates of smoking in the United States are declining, approximately a quarter of Americans have mothers who smoked during pregnancy, Levin said. Previous studies have shown these individuals have a higher chance of sudden infant death syndrome, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, obesity and even of becoming a lifelong smoker themselves, Levin said.
"It is easy to quit smoking -- anyone can do it, for a brief time," Levin said. "But not taking it up again -- that is the part that has proven so difficult for most people, especially those who have been exposed to nicotine before birth."
Levin and his colleagues say that different smoking cessation approaches should be taken in individuals who have been exposed to nicotine prenatally. Whether or not a person has been exposed to nicotine while in the womb becomes another part of their medical profile that helps doctors tailor treatment to the specific needs of the patient, Levin said. Some other factors shown to influence a person's ability to quit include gender, age, state of mental health and genetics, he added.
Other researchers participating in the study were Susan Lawrence, Ann Petro, Kofi Horton, Frederic J. Seidler and Theodore A. Slotkin.
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