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Keywords:

  • Craving;
  • cue-exposure;
  • cue-reactivity.

Abstract

Smoking cue-exposure research has provided a powerful tool for examining cravings in the laboratory. A key attraction of this method is that tightly controlled experimental procedures can model craving experiences that are presumed to relate to addiction. Despite its appeal, key assumptions underlying the clinical relevance of smoking cue-reactivity studies have been questioned recently. For both conceptual and methodological reasons it may be difficult to tease apart cue-based and abstinence-based cravings. Moreover, conventional cue-reactivity procedures typically generate levels of craving with only minimal clinical relevance. We argue here that sometimes it is unfeasible—and in some instances conceptually misguided—to disentangle abstinence-based and cued components of cigarette cravings. In light of the challenges associated with cue-reactivity research, we offer an alternative approach to smoking cue-exposure experimental research focusing on peak provoked craving (PPC) states. The PPC approach uses nicotine-deprived smokers and focuses on urges during smoking cue-exposure without subtracting out urge ratings during control cue or baseline assessments. This design relies on two factors found in many cue-exposure studies—nicotine deprivation and exposure to explicit smoking cues—which, when combined, can create powerful craving states. The PPC approach retains key aspects of the cue-exposure method, and in many circumstances may be a viable design for studies examining robust laboratory-induced cravings.