Nicotine blood levels and subjective craving for cigarettes

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2000 Jul;66(3):553-8. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(00)00261-6.


This study examined cigarette craving and blood nicotine levels in 11 male heavy smokers who were observed during 16 h of tobacco abstinence. Subjects rated their urge to smoke on a new brief 10-item questionnaire, Urge to Smoke (UTS), Schuh and Stitzer's four-item Visual Analog Scale (SSI), and a Strength of Urge to Smoke (SUTS) item. Testing occurred: 1) after 16 h (1700 h the night before to 0900 h the next morning) of abstinence from smoking; 2) after an ad lib smoking period following the 16 h abstinence; 3) every hour during 6 hours of abstinence; 4) and finally, after the 6 h abstinence, another ad lib smoking period. Thus, subjects smoked twice in each session. Blood plasma nicotine levels were measured before, after, and every 2 h during the 6-h abstinence period for a total of six measures. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured prior to each blood draw. There was a significant negative correlation between blood nicotine levels and craving for cigarettes on all craving questionnaires (rs = -0.55 to -0.78; ps < 0.002). Carbon monoxide was shown to correlate highly with nicotine blood levels (rs = 0.83 to 0.98 across subjects; ps < 0.001). Results are consistent with the hypothesis that "urge to smoke" reflects nicotine seeking in continuing smokers.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive* / blood
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / blood*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Smoking / blood*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / blood
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Nicotine