Young adults who quit smoking are less impulsive and neurotic than those who are still smoking.
The new study “Smoking Desistance and Personality Change in Emerging and Young Adulthood,” which will be published by the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, found a relationship between smoking cessation and improved personality.
According to Andrew Littlefield, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri, “The data indicate that for some young adults smoking is impulsive. That means that 18-year-olds are acting without a lot of forethought and favor immediate rewards over long term negative consequences.
They might say, ‘I know smoking is bad for me, but I’m going to do it anyway.’ However, we find individuals who show the most decreases in impulsivity also are more likely quit smoking. If we can target anti-smoking efforts at that impulsivity, it may help the young people stop smoking.”
Compared people, aged 18-35, who smoked with those who had quit smoking, researchers found that individuals who smoked were higher in two distinct personality traits during young adulthood — impulsivity and neuroticism.
Littlefield added, “Smokers at age 18 had higher impulsivity rates than non-smokers at age 18, and those who quit tended to display the steepest declines in impulsivity between ages 18 and 25. However, as a person ages and continues to smoke, smoking becomes part of a regular behavior pattern and less impulsive. The motives for smoking later in life – habit, craving, loss of control and tolerance – are key elements of smoking dependence and appear to be more independent of personality traits.”