Tobacco Use and Dementia

Losing MemoriesThe document on Tobacco Use and Dementia is prepared with the objective to summarize the current evidence on this topic (tobacco use includes smoked tobacco, smokeless tobacco and exposure to second-hand smoke). This knowledge summary was prepared by World Health Organization in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Disease International. Dementia is a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement. Consciousness is not affected.

According to Wikipedia, Dementia affects the brain's ability to think, reason and remember clearly. The most common affected areas include memory, visual-spatial, language, attention, and executive function (problem solving). Most types of dementia are slow and progressive. By the time the person shows signs of the disease, the process in the brain has been happening for a long time. It is possible for a patient to have two types of dementia at the same time. About 10% of people with dementia have what is known as mixed dementia, which is usually a combination of Alzheimer's disease and another type of dementia such as frontotemporal dementia or vascular dementia. Additional psychological and behavioral problems that often affect people who have dementia include:

- Disinhibition and impulsivity
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Agitation
- Balance problems
- Tremor
- Speech and language difficulty
- Trouble eating or swallowing
- Delusions (often believing people are stealing from them) or hallucinations
- Memory distortions (believing that a memory has already happened when it has not, thinking an old memory is a new one, combining two memories, or confusing the people in a memory)
- Wandering or restlessness

When people with dementia are put in circumstances beyond their abilities, there may be a sudden change to tears or anger (a "catastrophic reaction"). Depression affects 20–30% of people who have dementia, and about 20% have anxiety. Psychosis (often delusions of persecution) and agitation/aggression also often accompany dementia. Each of these must be assessed and treated independently of the underlying dementia.

Download and read the document on Tobacco use knowledge summaries: tobacco use and dementia. If you have a question about the tobacco use knowledge summary, please get in touch with the World Health Organization at

Source: World Health Organization
Photo Credit: MentalHealthy

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