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Addict Disord Their Treat. 2016 Sep;15(3):136-142.

Anxiety sensitivity and smoking variability among treatment seeking smokers.

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Department of Psychology & Institute for Mental Health Research, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX.
Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, TX; Department of Behavioral Science, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.
Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California, San Diego, CA.
Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, LA.
Department of Psychology, Howard University, Washington, DC.
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA.



Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is associated with poor smoking cessation outcomes. One reason may be that smokers with high AS smoke differently (i.e., to manage negative affect and uncomfortable bodily sensations) than other smokers, leading to stronger addiction (due to an affect/sensation based and thereby highly variable rather than a regular smoking routine). Thus, we examined the relationship between AS and smoking variability in a group of treatment-seeking smokers.


Participants (N = 136; 52.2% female; Mage = 44.19 years, SD = 11.29) were daily smokers with elevated AS (AS≥20 on the Anxiety Sensitivity Index 16-item at prescreen) recruited as part of a larger randomized controlled trial for smoking cessation. Most participants were Caucasian (73%), educated (with 76% attending some college), unmarried (73%), and employed full-time (56%). They smoked, on average, 17 cigarettes per day.


Consistent with prediction, a regression analysis of baseline assessments and a longitudinal analysis with multilevel modeling (MLM) both showed higher AS was associated with greater variability in cigarettes smoked per day while controlling for gender, age, ethnicity, and income.


This finding encourages investigation of how AS might interact with clinical strategies using a fixed smoking taper as part of quit attempts.


Anxiety Sensitivity; Smoking; Variability

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