Doctors may be able to predict a person's tendency to smoke by knowing whether the individual has ever suffered depression, a researcher says.

A report in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association says people who have suffered major depression are twice as likely to smoke and half as likely to succeed at quitting."People talk about some sort of addictive personality . . . but don't know what makes people more addictive than others," said one of the authors, Dr. Alexander H. Glassman, chief of clinical pharmacology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at New York's Columbia University.

"This seems to show that we can predict who is going to be more addictable to a drug."

Though people sometimes say they smoke to relieve anxiety and tension, the study failed to find a link between smokers and people who had been diagnosed with phobias or panic disorders. It did find that smoking was four times as common among alcoholics, Glassman said.

Researchers analyzed data collected from 3,213 people in the St. Louis metropolitan area in the early 1980s as part of a national psychiatric survey.

They found that, among those who smoked, 6.6 percent had suffered depression at one time in their lives and that, among those who didn't smoke, 2.9 percent had suffered depression.

The study didn't look into whether depression helps prompt smoking, or vice versa. But Glassman said he believes the finding "implies that people who get depressed are somehow more vulnerable to nicotine . . . to drugs."