I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel, or a Fresh Tank of Oxygen

In 1994 researchers from Denmark studied the faces of 13,186 men and women between the ages of 30 and 80 and recorded the severity of wrinkling in the right lateral part of the orbit where "crow's feet" appear. They then checked their lung capacity using a standard measurement found in pulmonary function testing and, after stratifying the subjects according to age, noticed a curious finding among current and previous smokers:

...subjects with highest wrinkle scores had on average FEV1/FVC% that was 1.2-1.9% lower than in subjects with lower wrinkle scores. No association between facial wrinkling and airflow obstruction was observed among lifetime nonsmokers.

Their conclusion: Increased facial wrinkling is associated with "airflow obstruction in smokers, but not in never-smokers. The magnitude of this association, however, is small."

Oh, the link between prune-faced smokers and emphysema is "small", eh? That's comforting to know, because God forbid the 3000 American teenagers who became regular cigarette smokers today should have to suffer from having both troll-like faces and lung disease as they wheeze on through life. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, right kids?

Uh oh...I just remembered - it ain't 1994 anymore. Better brace yourselves, for today a new research study from the elegantly named Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in the U. K. bears a heap o' bad news for all the young dudes and lasses in love with gaspers. What did they find out?

After age and the number of years someone had smoked were taken into account, smokers with lined faces were five times more likely to have COPD.

Facial wrinkling was also associated with triple the risk of more severe emphysema.

The authors postulate that there certainly may be a genetic susceptibility to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), but can this genetic defect be identified by studying patient's faces? The British researchers say yes, and the hypothesis makes sense to me:

British Skin Foundation spokesman Professor Chris Griffiths, from the University of Manchester, said: "It is well documented that smoking is linked to skin wrinkling, and this is associated with smoking-induced stimulation of enzymes that break down collagen and elastic tissue in the skin.

"The chronic lung condition emphysema is also associated with loss of elasticity in the lungs and is analogous to wrinkling in the skin.

"It would be interesting to speculate that the susceptibility to sun induced skin wrinkles and the presence of emphysema are determined by similar mechanisms."

Somewhere in the universe someone must be laughing hysterically at a report on the behavior of the hominids populating this place, for who ever heard of a planet where the inhabitants possess both highly evolved intelligence and a willingness to poison themselves by the millions, or more seriously, ruin their gorgeous mugs?

"Rem acu tetigisti," replied the visitor from another world.

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Couldn't it just be that when gasping for breath, one makes a strained face, thus leading to increased propensity for wrinkles?