Aims: Research has shown that smoking-related cues are important triggers for craving. The objective of the present study was to test whether smoking cues in movies also function as triggers to evoke craving. To accomplish this, we conducted a pilot study in which we examined smokers' reactivity to smoking cues from a particular movie in a common cue-reactivity paradigm using pictures. In the main study, we tested whether smokers who are confronted with smoking characters in a movie segment have a greater desire to smoke than smokers confronted with non-smoking characters.
Design: Using an experimental design, participants were assigned randomly to one of two movie conditions (smoking versus non-smoking characters).
Setting: In a laboratory, that reflected a naturalistic setting, participants watched a 41-minute movie segment.
Participants: A total of 65 young adults who smoked on a daily basis participated in the experiment.
Measurements: Craving was assessed before and after watching the movie.
Findings: The pilot study revealed that pictures of smoking characters had strong effects on craving. However, when smokers actually watched a movie segment, no differences in craving were found between those who watched smoking characters and those who watched non-smoking characters. This finding was not affected by baseline craving, the time of the last cigarette smoked and daily smoking habits.
Conclusions: No effect of smoking cues in movies on craving was found, in contrast with research supporting the cue-craving link. Thus, if replicated, this might indicate that smoking cues in such contexts do not affect smokers' desire to smoke as expected.