Effects of cigarette nicotine content and smoking pace on subsequent craving and smoking

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003 Jan;165(2):172-80. doi: 10.1007/s00213-002-1242-8. Epub 2002 Oct 31.


Rationale: The relative contribution of sensory and pharmacological variables in regulating craving and smoking remains unclear. Rapid smoking procedures and denicotinized cigarettes can be used to further disentangle these factors, and to explore the relationship between craving and smoking.

Objective: The present study examined the role of nicotine and sensory cues in mediating craving and smoking, and the relationship between craving and smoking.

Methods: Participants ( n=15) engaged in one session each of rapid smoking (up to nine cigarettes with puffs taken every 6 s) and normal paced smoking with nicotinized and denicotinized cigarettes (total of four sessions). During the next 3 h, craving and withdrawal assessments and smoking opportunities were scheduled every 15 min. Plasma nicotine levels were measured at baseline, immediately and 15 min after the smoking interventions, and subsequently at the time when the participant first chose to smoke.

Results: Craving ratings were equally suppressed immediately after all conditions. After self-paced conditions, both types of cigarettes produced equivalent effects on latency to smoke. Latency to smoke was significantly longer after rapid smoking of nicotinized cigarettes compared to all other conditions. Finally, changes in craving were associated with choices to smoke.

Conclusions: The sensory cues associated with smoking suppressed craving ratings regardless of the smoking pace or nicotine content. Only at high doses did nicotine levels play an additional role in acutely suppressing smoking behavior. Small elevations in craving ratings were associated with choices to smoke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Neurologic Examination / drug effects
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Nicotine / pharmacokinetics
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Smoking / blood
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / blood
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*


  • Nicotine