Dark skinned smokers greater dependence, binding of melanin and nicotine..

September 11, 2009 - We reported on May 11, 2009 that scientists have reported that higher concentrations of melanin -- the color pigment in skin and hair -- may be placing darker pigmented smokers at increased susceptibility to nicotine dependence and tobacco-related carcinogens than lighter skinned smokers. (Prolonged effect of nicotine as a result of binding with melanin..)

One of the investigators, Dr. Gary King from Pennsylvania State University studied nicotine and melanin, a compound your body makes that determines how dark you are. And he found a connection. According to Dr. King, the melanin is strongly attracted to nicotine, and the way it works is when you light up a cigarette, the tobacco and all the chemicals created when it burns into your mouth, into your lungs and the rest of your organs, including your biggest organ ... skin.

Inhaling thousands of chemicals is not a good idea. But it is especially bad for people with dark, melanin-rich skin. That's because melanin grabs and hangs onto the nicotine.

Greater dependence means it's much harder for darker skinned people to kick the habit. In fact white smokers on average are 15 percent better at quitting than blacks. Even though whites typically smoke about five more cigarettes a day.

"Nicotine doesn't remain in the body for an extended period of time, which is one reason why smokers continually have to replenish their supply," said Dr. King. "The suggestion is that it does remain in their body much longer for African Americans than white Americans. African Americans typically smoke fewer cigarettes than Caucasian Americans and some other groups but yet still the dependence rate is much higher."

Dr. King's next step is to survey dark and light skinned people all over the world. His findings are based on a pretty small sample -- 150 subjects, all of whom are African American. The study targeted African Americans for several reasons: for one, black people have the widest range of melanin concentration.

Reference: The link between smoking and darker skin; Public Radio International, 9/8/2009.

More - See online sources for Dr. Gary King..