Smokers given genetic test to help them quit


SCOTTISH smokers could be given a genetic test to help them quit their nicotine habit.

Health officials in Glasgow are currently in talks over whether to introduce a screening test which would determine how best to help smokers quit.

One in four Scots smoke- and the test would work out how many out of a possible seven smoking genes each addict has.


It would then decide how strong a nicotine replacement patch should be to help the smoker give up.

Professor Robert Walton , of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, says people with different types of genes respond differently to different anti-smoking techniques.

He argues genetic variations determine why people are at risk of becoming addicted and how people will respond to nicotine patches.

Prof Walton said: “People with certain genes respond differently to certain things. People whose bodies break down nicotine very quickly tend to be more addicted to tobacco and have a higher requirement for nicotine.

“But when we come to give them nicotine replacement therapy to try to help them stop smoking we give everyone the same dose.

“The dose has been set for an average level for the population so fast metabolisers are getting quite hopelessly under-dosed.”

He said the solution is “dead simple”.

“It would be quite easy to roll out a testing system where you identify people’s genetic makeup and give them more appropriate dose.

“You would just put more nicotine in the patch – or less – so some could contain 60mg instead of 20mg. People are sometimes worried about protecting themselves from overdosing and likewise in some cases they could get by with 10mg and why should they take more?” he added.


Last week the Scottish Government announced it is drawing up plans for a virtually smoke-free Scotland by 2030.

Currently around one in four Scots are smokers, the Government hopes to slash this figure to fewer than One in 20.

Cancer Research claims one third of all cancer deaths in Scotland are due to smoking.

Prof Walton tested the genes of Scots-born Hollywood actor Brian Cox for a forthcoming BBC documentary on addictions.

He found Cox had only three of the seven genes linked to a tendency to smoke.

Cox said: “So I don’t smoke because I’m one of the lucky few who don’t have the genes for nicotine dependence but what my parents gave me was experience of passive smoking, which I came to hate.

“I can’t blame them for smoking. They were surrounded by a smoking majority; they lived through two world wars and the Great Depression – the sort of stressful time that always seems to bode well for cigarette sales.”