Resisting tempting foods and smoking behavior: implications from a self-control theory perspective

Health Psychol. 2009 May;28(3):300-6. doi: 10.1037/a0013826.


Objective: Individuals may desire to diet or restrain from eating certain foods while attempting to quit smoking out of concern for weight gain. However, previous research and clinical tobacco treatment guidelines suggest that concurrent dieting may undermine attempts to quit smoking. The current study applied the self-control strength model, which posits that self-regulation relies on a limited strength that is consumed with use, to test whether resisting tempting sweets would lead to a greater likelihood of subsequent smoking.

Design: Participants were 101 cigarette smokers randomly assigned to resist eating either from a tempting plate of sweets or from a plate of less tempting vegetables. All participants were then given a 10-min recess.

Main outcome measures: Whether participants smoked during the break, measured with a breath carbon monoxide sample, served as the primary dependent variable.

Results: As predicted, participants who resisted sweets were more likely to smoke during the break (53.2%) than those who resisted vegetables (34.0%), chi2(1, N = 101) = 3.65 p < .05.

Conclusions: The findings support the tenets of the self-control strength model and suggest the mechanism by which dietary restraint may harm efforts at quitting smoking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appetite*
  • Attention
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology