Smokers have worse memories than people who have kicked the habit or never picked it up, according to a study be published in the upcoming issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Study participants were dispatched to a college campus and given tasks to perform at 15 different locations, from checking their cell phones at the library to asking about membership costs at the sports center. Smokers remembered an average of 8.9 tasks, compared to 11 for people who had quit and 12.1 for people who had never started.
That translates into people who had never smoked performing 37 percent better than people who still lit up, and those who had quit performing 25 percent better than smokers.
We already know that giving up smoking has huge health benefits for the body, but this study also shows how stopping smoking can have knock-on benefits for cognitive function, too, study researcher Tom Heffernan, a psychology professor at Northumbria University in England, told Fox News.
The test measured a type of memory known as prospective memory, which is defined as the ability to remember or carry out a specific action in the future. Previous tests examining smokers' retrospective memory, the ability to retrieve a piece of learned information, yielded mixed results -- in some tests, nonsmokers fared no better than smokers.
Researchers are uncertain of how to interpret the results, but theorized that a deterioration of memory might stem from smoking damaging parts of the brain like the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus or thalamus.