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Psychol Addict Behav. 2014 Mar;28(1):173-81. doi: 10.1037/a0031950. Epub 2013 Mar 25.

The acute tobacco withdrawal syndrome among black smokers.

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  • 1Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
  • 2Battelle Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation.
  • 3Nicotine Psychopharmacology Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Intramural Research Program.


Black smokers have greater difficulty quitting tobacco than White smokers, but the mechanisms underlying between-race differences in smoking cessation are not clear. One possibility is that Black smokers experience greater acute withdrawal than Whites. We investigated whether Black (n = 104) and White smokers (n = 99) differed in abstinence-induced changes in self-report, physiological, and cognitive performance measures. Smokers not wishing to quit completed two counterbalanced experimental sessions. Before one session, they abstained from smoking for at least 12 hr. They smoked normally before the other session. Black smokers reported smaller abstinence-induced changes on a number of subjective measures including the total score of the 10-item Questionnaire for Smoking Urges (QSU) and the total score of the Wisconsin Smoking Withdrawal Scale (WSWS). However, on most subjective measures, and on all objective measures, there were no between-race differences in abstinence-induced change scores. Moreover, Black participants did not report lower QSU and WSWS ratings at the abstinent session, but they did experience significantly higher QSU and WSWS ratings at the nonabstinent session. Abstinence-induced changes in subjective, physiological, and cognitive measures in White smokers were similar for smokers of nonflavored and menthol-flavored cigarettes. There was no evidence that Black smokers experienced greater acute tobacco withdrawal than Whites. To the contrary, Black participants experienced smaller abstinence-induced changes in self-reported craving and withdrawal on some measures. Racial differences in smoking cessation are unlikely to be explained by acute withdrawal.

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