• Abstinence;
  • stimuli;
  • symptom;
  • suppression;
  • tobacco


Aims  Cigarette smoking causes cancer and disease, yet people find quitting difficult due to aversive symptoms that accompany tobacco abstinence. Understanding how to suppress these symptoms is critical in developing effective smoking cessation treatments. Pharmacologically, pure nicotine suppresses tobacco abstinence symptoms partially, and non-nicotine, smoking-related stimuli suppress these abstinence symptoms fully, at least for 24 hours. The current study was designed to clarify the impact of smoking-related stimuli on tobacco withdrawal, and to explore the duration of their ability to suppress withdrawal in smokers.

Design  Three double-blind, within-subjects, Latin square-ordered, 5-day conditions in which participants smoked nicotinized, denicotinized or no cigarettes.

Setting  Out-patient laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Participants  Thirteen women and 19 men.

Measurements  Subjective, physiological and performance measures were collected daily and compliance with study conditions was verified objectively.

Findings  Smoking-related stimuli are sufficient for suppressing some symptoms of tobacco abstinence over a 5-day period [i.e. Questionnaire of Smoking Urges (QSU) factor 1, ‘Desire for sweets’, ‘Hunger’ and ‘Urges to smoke’], while in this study a combination of nicotine and smoking-related stimuli suppressed other symptoms (i.e. ‘Difficulty concentrating’, ‘Increased eating’, ‘Restlessness’ and ‘Impatient’).

Conclusions  These results indicate that, while some tobacco abstinence symptoms may be suppressed with nicotine, suppressing others may also require strategies that address the absence of smoking-related stimuli.