The Effects of Alcohol on Responses to Nicotine-Containing and Denicotinized Cigarettes in Dependent and Nondaily Smokers


Reprint requests: Sean P. Barrett, PhD, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, PO Box 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2, Canada; Tel.: +1-902-494-2956; Fax: +1-902-494-6585; E-mail:



Alcohol consumption has been linked to increased tobacco use and craving in both dependent and nondaily smokers, yet the extent to which these relationships depend on interactions involving nicotine remains unclear. This study examined the acute effects of alcohol on the subjective and behavioral responses to nicotine-containing tobacco and denicotinized tobacco in 17 (10 male) dependent daily smokers (DDS) and 23 (11 male) nondependent nondaily smokers (NNS).


During 4 randomized double-blind sessions, participants assessed the effects of nicotine-containing tobacco or denicotinized tobacco following the administration of a moderately intoxicating dose of alcohol (mean blood alcohol concentration = 0.076 g/dl) or a placebo beverage. They could then self-administer additional puffs of the same type of cigarette sampled over a 60-minute period using a progressive ratio task.


In NNS, alcohol significantly increased the self-administration of both nicotine-containing and denicotinized cigarettes, and no differences in self-administration were observed between the 2 types of tobacco within either beverage condition. In contrast, in DDS, alcohol was associated with decreased denicotinized tobacco self-administration relative to the placebo beverage condition as well as with increased self-administration of nicotine-containing tobacco relative to denicotinized tobacco. DDS also exhibited relatively elevated craving following the administration of a nicotine-containing cigarette in the alcohol beverage condition.


Findings suggest that nicotine may be critical to the drinking–smoking relationship in DDS, but that nonnicotine smoking factors may be more important in NNS.