Smoking as a Cognitive Enhancer

Me with all of the pipes in the front of the shop!

In our 402 class our fifth blog post was on nicotine and how different behavior can potentially be a predictor to who becomes addicted to smoking. When people think of the French culture cigarettes come into mind, and there is the paradox of the French diet – how they seem to smoke so many cigarettes but do not have as many adverse health effects. An Ipsos survey in 2013 showed as well that around one million French people regularly use e-cigarettes (The local, 2017). And, although there are laws against smoking in public they are not heavily enforced, and many people smoke on the streets. Due to this prevalence of smoking ingrained in the culture we took a class trip to Le Musee de Fumeur.

This might have been the most interesting museum we have been to because it was a half smoke shop half museum. The entrance and main room in the building was a store where you could buy different types of smoking pipes, cigarettes, and other types of smoking paraphernalia. A small hallway led into the back where there were 2 small rooms that housed the museum. There was a large assortment of different types of smoking devices that were used back in the day as well as devices still used in different parts of the world. I never knew there were that many ways to smoke. The most interesting pipe I saw was one that looked like it was crafted out of bamboo.

old bamboo looking pipes

Looking at all of these smoking devices made me reflect on why people smoke and what benefits that could possibly come from smoking, because if so many people are smoking there must be a reason besides just addiction.

There are a few theories and studies showing that nicotine acts as a cognitive enhancer ameliorating symptoms of schizophrenia (Dome, et al., 2010). A study done on rats looked specifically at the maternal immune activation (MIA) and found that in rats that self administered nicotine significantly ameliorated the cognitive deficits that were induced by the MIA (Waterhouse, Brennan, and Ellenbroek, 2018). So, it is possible that nicotine has cognitive enhancing effects.

While it is known that overall smoking does more damage than good, it is interesting to hear the potential benefits of nicotine itself, and the interactions it can have with different mechanisms in the brain.


Dome P, Lazary J, Kalapos MP, Rihmer Z (2010) Smoking,nicotine and neuropsychiatric disorders. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 34:295–342.

Waterhouse U., Brennan K.A., Ellenbroek B.A., (2018) Nicotine self-administration reverses cognitive deficits in a rat model for schizophrenia. Addiction Biology, 23: 620-630.

2018, The French and smoking: Is France really ‘Europe’s chimney’, The Local. Accessed at

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