Smokers attempting to quit should benefit from persisting in cognitive and behavioral coping in order to achieve and maintain abstinence. Task persistence, which describes the act of persisting in a difficult or effortful task, is likely to be required in the face of distressing smoking cues, urges to smoke, or other nicotine withdrawal symptoms. This study examined whether task persistence (also called distress tolerance) could prospectively predict smoking cessation in a mixed sample of smokers with and without schizophrenia. Smokers with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (n = 71) and nonpsychiatric smokers (n = 78) seeking treatment at state-funded tobacco dependence treatment clinics completed tests of task persistence before their target quit date, and then provided tobacco use data over the 6 months after their quit date. Findings from generalized estimating equations support the hypothesis that task persistence as measured by a mirror-tracing task predicts smoking cessation while controlling for important covariates such as psychiatric diagnosis, nicotine dependence, and confidence in ability to quit. These findings add to the literature by corroborating reports suggesting that task persistence may make important contributions to smoking cessation success, and by indicating that the contribution of task persistence to smoking cessation is similar for smokers with schizophrenia and nonpsychiatric smokers. These results suggest that efforts to target task persistence in smoking cessation counseling protocols may be warranted.
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