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Smoking and Tobacco

Nausea?

10/07/2008

Question:

My husband told me that all of the sudden, the smell of smoke makes him nauseous. Is that possible? Is this just a way to keep me from smoking or is this real? I don`t know how he can stand being in a casino if this is correct. People sitting right next to him will light up and he won`t move, but if I light up, he`s sick to his stomach. Very curious. Please let me know what you think.

Answer:

I'm sorry to hear about your husband's nausea. Nausea even without vomiting can be truly debilitating. The sensation of nausea is brought on by a very complex interaction between the brain (including its sensory functions) and the intestinal tract. A nauseating stimulus coming from the inner ear, from smell or taste, from memory or from something in the gut itself can begin a cycle of response that sets all systems in motion.

As an example, if we expose a person prone to motion sickness simply to spinning black and white lines, not only do they feel nauseous, but their whole gut reacts with spasm-like contractions. Because of this complexity, people often have very unique experiences of nausea.

I'm not surprised that your smoking affects your husband more than other people's smoking affects him. Not only is he getting a direct sensory experience of a known nauseant, but also he's experiencing some level of rejection by you and some fear of losing you permanently through a tobacco related illness.

Perhaps a better question is: "Why do you feel a need to smoke around him?" Or, around anyone? You seem bright. Why do you continue to smoke at all? If you are addicted and need help quitting, call 800 QUIT NOW, the state's free tobacco quitline -- and see your doctor.

Perhaps it's time to listen not just to your husband, but more to that small, clear voice inside your head that's persistently whispering, "He's right, I should quit; this is stupid."

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Response by:

Rob  Crane, MD Rob Crane, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University