Immediate hedonic response to smoking lapses: relationship to smoking relapse, and effects of nicotine replacement therapy

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Mar;184(3-4):608-18. doi: 10.1007/s00213-005-0175-4. Epub 2005 Nov 11.


Objective and rationale: Smoking lapses represent an important juncture between smoking cessation and relapse. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) has been shown to decrease the risk of progression from lapse to relapse. We hypothesized that this effect might be mediated via decreases in reinforcement from smoking lapses.

Method: We assessed 169 subjects who lapsed during treatment in a double-blind placebo-controlled study of high-dose (35 mg) nicotine patch. Following their first lapse, using an electronic diary, subjects recorded the amount they smoked, and rated the pleasantness and satisfaction ("hedonic rating") and the aversiveness of smoking. Subjects were then followed and assessed for further lapses and relapses.

Results: Subjects who smoked more during the first lapse had greater risk of progression [second lapse: hazard ratio (HR)=1.16, confidence interval (CI)=1.01-1.32; relapse: HR=1.22, CI=0.97-1.54]. Subjects with higher hedonic ratings of the first lapse also had a greater risk of progression to the second lapse (HR=1.08, CI=1.02-1.14) and to relapse (HR=1.26, CI=1.11-1.41). Aversive ratings had no bearing on progression. As expected, active treatment reduced the risk of both a second lapse (HR=0.54, CI=0.39-0.78) and a relapse (HR=0.22, CI=0.11-0.45). Importantly, however, NRT had no effect on hedonic ratings, amount smoked during the first lapse, or aversive ratings.

Conclusions: Hedonic response to an initial lapse predicted progression to relapse, but this did not mediate the effect of NRT on progression.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Attitude*
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*


  • Nicotine