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Addiction. 2007 Feb;102(2):324-34.

Smoking in the absence of nicotine: behavioral, subjective and physiological effects over 11 days.

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Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Sensorimotor stimuli associated with tobacco smoking influence smoking behavior; however, current research has focused almost exclusively on the effects of brief, laboratory-based exposure to smoking-related stimuli. The purpose of this experiment was to characterize the effects of smoking stimuli delivered in the absence of nicotine over an extended (11-day) exposure.


Thirty adult regular smokers participated in an in-patient study. After assessing preferred brand smoking, participants were assigned randomly to one of three groups corresponding to subsequent smoking conditions: nicotine-containing cigarettes, de-nicotinized cigarettes or no smoking.


Measures of smoking reinforcement, subjective effects, physiological effects, withdrawal/craving and puff topography were taken repeatedly during both periods of free access and controlled assessments during abstinence.


Daily de-nicotinized cigarette use declined immediately by 1.7 cigarettes/day compared to the preferred brand baseline and declined by another 3.5 cigarettes over time; participants smoking de-nicotinized cigarettes also demonstrated a 31% decline in the number of puffs earned on a progressive ratio, a measure of the motivation to smoke, during the study. Subjective ratings of smoking were largely negative throughout the study in the de-nicotinized group, while the nicotine-containing condition reported increasingly positive subjective effects with repeated exposure. Acute craving suppression following smoking remained evident throughout the study regardless of nicotine content.


These effects highlight the importance of non-nicotine sensorimotor stimuli as determinants of the maintenance of smoking behavior and suggests that extinction of conditioned reinforcement in the absence of nicotine progresses slowly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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