LEXINGTON, Ky. — It’s an irrefutable fact that smoking is bad for you. Study after study has proven that smoking increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes — even blindness.

But dementia? Not so fast. A recent study has demonstrated that smoking is not associated with a higher risk of dementia.

Many previous studies have found a correlation between smoking and dementia. However, Erin Abner of the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA) and colleagues wanted to explore outcomes using a different method of data analysis.

“The underlying data (in those studies) was solid, but the analysis didn’t take into account the idea of competing risk of mortality, which we felt was an important factor to consider with smoking,” Abner said.

Abner et al examined longitudinal data from 531 people who were part of the SBCoA BRAiNS study, which follows hundreds of volunteers to explore the effects of aging on cognition. They used a statistical method called Competing Risk Analysis to determine whether there was a connection between smoking and dementia once the competing risk of death was included.

The answer: there wasn’t.

“To be clear, we are absolutely not promoting smoking in any way,” said Abner. “We’re saying that smoking doesn’t appear to cause dementia in this population.”

The data was previously published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD-68 (2)).


The Sanders-Brown Center on Aging was founded at the University of Kentucky in 1972, quickly establishing itself as a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of life for the elderly through research and education.

Sanders-Brown has played an instrumental role in several landmark breakthroughs related to Alzheimer’s and other dementias, including the discovery that there are changes in the brain decades before there are outward symptoms of the disease.

In 1985, Sanders-Brown was among the first 10 Alzheimer’s Disease Centers funded by the National Institutes of Health. Currently, only 31 designated Alzheimer’s Disease Centers exist in the U.S. and only nine — including Sanders-Brown — has been continuously funded since the designation was launched.


The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (JAD) is an international multidisciplinary journal to facilitate progress in understanding the etiology, pathogenesis, epidemiology, genetics, behavior, treatment and psychology of Alzheimer’s disease. The journal publishes research reports, reviews, short communications, book reviews, and letters-to-the-editor. Groundbreaking research that has appeared in the journal includes novel therapeutic targets, mechanisms of disease and clinical trial outcomes. JAD has an Impact Factor of 3.476 according to the 2017 Journal Citation Reports (Clarivate Analytics, 2018). j-alz.com