(HealthDay News) – Individuals with genetic profiles putting them at risk of greater smoking are more likely to progress to heavy smoking and nicotine dependence, particularly if they quickly became daily smokers and heavy smokers as adolescents, according to a study published online March 27 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Daniel W. Belsky, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues examined the association between genome-wide loci linked to smoking quantity phenotypes (as defined by a genetic risk score) and smoking behaviors in 1,037 men and women who were assessed for smoking behaviors eight times from 11–38 years of age.

The researchers found that the genetic risk score was not associated with smoking initiation. Among those who initiated smoking, those at higher genetic risk were more likely to become daily smokers as teenagers, progress more rapidly to heavy smoking, become persistent heavy smokers and nicotine dependent, smoke to cope with stress, and be unable to quit smoking. Individuals at high genetic risk were more likely to become persistent heavy smokers, nicotine dependent, and unable to quit if, as adolescents, they had converted early to daily smoking and rapidly progressed to heavy smoking.

“Initiatives that disrupt the developmental progression of smoking behavior among adolescents may mitigate genetic risks for developing adult smoking problems,” Belsky and colleagues conclude.

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