Who knew a smoking museum could say so much?

This week, the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology class visited the Musee de Fumeur in Paris. Hearing about this visit, I grew interested to see what would be inside. In fact, before the visit, our entire class began working on a paper for 402W about how nicotine affects attention. The researchers of the study used mice as the model organism for the experiment. The study analyzes how differences in baseline attention contributed to the motivation to self-administer nicotine.

Reading the paper made me think about how smoking differs amongst populations. Most of the differences are cultural. For example, the French smoke heavily whereas those in the United States stigmatize smoking to an extent. I clearly saw this cultural difference while looking around the smoking museum. For example, as soon as I walked into the museum part behind the French smoke shop, I saw glamorous pictures of people smoking. Yes, there were glamorous pictures of celebrities smoking, but this glamour also manifested itself within the old French smoking advertisements I saw all across the walls of both the museum and the smoke shop!

For example, the advertisements were of extremely well-dressed younger individuals lounging on expensive looking seating and smoking cigars. As I analyzed the pictures, I began to think about French culture again and the casual ways I might have seen this type of leisure portrayed in daily life as I walked through Paris. I noticed the same theme in the way people sit and enjoy wine and coffee in Paris represented in even the older French advertisements. In fact, there are a lot of young people freely smoking around Paris while sitting and enjoying a glass of coffee or wine.

Then I wondered how smoking during adolescence would affect nicotine administration throughout one’s life span. In fact, a study using male rats found that rats who were given nicotine early on in life had a higher rate of nicotine self-administration throughout their lifespan (Levin et. al, 2007). Even though rat models do not 100% directly translate into insight that could be used for humans, I found this fact to be very interesting. I then reflected on this idea and attributed the high number of people who smoke in France to the amount of people smoking at a very young age. It was interesting being able to take my knowledge from my paper about nicotine self-administration and apply it to my observations in Paris. I truly feel like I have been able to synthesize my experiences and education during this trip.


Edward D. Levin, Susan Slade Lawrence Ann Petro, Kofi Horton, Amir H.Rezvani, Frederic J.Seidler, Theodore A.Slotkina. (2007). Adolescent vs. adult-onset nicotine self- administration in male rats: Duration of effect and differential nicotinic receptor correlates. Neurotoxicology and Teratology.

Fig. 1: Me with some cigars in a case.

Fig. 2: Here are some advertisements!

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