Vice Squad
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
A Taste for Nicotine and Hostility

In February 1842, Abraham Lincoln spoke to the Springfield (IL) Washington Temperance Society, which was meeting on the birthday of their namesake. In his address to the Washingtonians, Lincoln noted the difference between inebriates and others: "In my judgment such of us as have never fallen victims have been spared more by the absence of appetite than from any mental or moral superiority over those who have. Indeed, I believe if we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class. There seems ever to have been a proneness in the brilliant and warm-blooded to fall into this vice — the demon of intemperance ever seems to have delighted in sucking the blood of genius and of generosity."

Today's Chicago Tribune (registration required) brings word of the type of person who is likely to have a taste for nicotine, though such folks are not described by "genius" or "generosity." Try "easy to anger" instead: "Scientists using powerful scanners have documented nicotine triggering dramatic bursts of activity in certain brain areas--but only in people prone to anger and aggression, not more cheerful, relaxed types." The article goes on to note that "It's the first biological evidence that people with certain personality traits are more likely to get hooked on smoking if they experiment with cigarettes." In any case, those of us who have managed to avoid nicotine addition can thank "absence of appetite," and that same absence might be connected to our (questionable) cheerfulness!

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