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Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Jun;15(6):1084-90. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts208. Epub 2012 Nov 9.

Anxiety sensitivity as a predictor of acute subjective effects of smoking.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



Anxiety sensitivity (i.e., AS; the degree to which one believes that anxiety and its related sensations are harmful) is a stable trait that is associated with habitual smoking. Yet, the mechanisms linking AS and smoking are unclear. A promising hypothesis is that high-AS individuals are more sensitive to the acute subjective reinforcing effects of smoking and are, therefore, more prone to tobacco dependence. This study examined trait AS as a predictor of several subjective effects of cigarette smoking.


Adult non-treatment-seeking smokers (N = 87; 10+ cigarettes/day) completed a measure of AS during a baseline session. Prior to a subsequent experimental session, participants were asked to smoke normally before their appointment. At the outset of that visit, each participant smoked a single cigarette of their preferred brand in the laboratory. Self-report measures of affect and cigarette craving were completed before and after smoking, and post-cigarette subjective effect ratings were provided.


AS predicted greater increases in positive affect from pre- to post-cigarette (β = .30, p = .006) as well as greater smoking satisfaction and psychological reward (β = .23 to .48, ps < .03). Each of these effects remained statistically significant after adjusting for anxiety symptom severity. AS did not predict the degree of negative affect and craving suppression or post-cigarette aversive effects.


These findings suggest that positive reinforcement mechanisms may be particularly salient etiological processes that maintain smoking in high-AS individuals.

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