VSL:SCIENCE // Bad news about smoking and suntans

A novel study by sociologist Gary King sheds new light on the mystifying connection between dark skin and nicotine addiction.

King was curious to see whether there was a connection between two previously established facts: (1) Nicotine appears to gather faster in tissue containing skin-darkening melanin. (2) African-Americans absorb more nicotine per puff, and have more trouble quitting, than lighter-skinned groups do. But after subjecting 150 African-American smokers to a series of tests, King found that while addiction levels didn’t correlate with overall skin color, they did correlate with how much a person’s skin darkened in response to sunlight — a measure of just one kind of melanin, so-called facultative melanin, which drives tanning rather than base skin color. The results suggest that the well-tanned of every color run extra risks when they light up.

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VSL:SCIENCE // Bad news about smoking and suntans