Smoking Cancels Out Benefits of Multivitamins

Smoking increases lung cancer risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Is there such thing as health conscious smoking? Some smokers believe that smoking risks are lessened when they take vitamins or supplements regularly. Does that actually work though?

Smoking increases risks for many illnesses including heart disease and lung cancer. Researchers wanted to see how smokers reacted when taking multivitamins.

"Quit smoking; it’s just not good for you."

Lead author, Wen-Bin Chiou, from the National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, found that smokers will smoke more when they take multivitamins.

Chiou and other psychologists refer to this phenomenon as the licensing effect. The licensing effect means that you do something good, in this case take a multivitamin, so that you can make a poor choice later, like smoking.

Chiou and team performed two studies to demonstrate the licensing effect in smokers. The first experiment had 74 daily smokers who were asked to take placebos. Half of the participants were told the placebo was a vitamin C supplement.

They were asked to take a survey during which they were allowed to smoke. The researchers found that participants who believed they were taking a vitamin C supplement smoked nearly twice as much as those who knew they were taking placebos. Those same participants were also more likely to report greater feelings of immunity.

The second experiment was similar except with more people and half were told they were taking a multivitamin instead of vitamin C. Similar results were seen, but to a more extensive degree. They noticed that smokers who believed multivitamins benefit health were more likely to smoke even more.

In other words the stronger the belief, the more they smoked, Chiou says. We need to educate smokers about multivitamins because there is no canceling effect – maybe if we do that more people will be encouraged to quit, Chiou concludes.

The research is published in the journal Addiction.

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Review Date: 
August 5, 2011
Last Updated:
August 11, 2011