Effects of abstinence in adolescent tobacco smokers: withdrawal symptoms, urge, affect, and cue reactivity

Nicotine Tob Res. 2013 Feb;15(2):457-64. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts155. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Introduction: The aim of this study was to evaluate abstinence effects in adolescent daily smokers by examining the effects of experimentally manipulated acute smoking abstinence on measures including: (a) withdrawal symptoms, (b) reactive irritability, (c) smoking urges, (d) affect, and (e) responses to smoking cues.

Methods: Participants (ages 13-19, 74 daily smokers, and 22 nonsmokers) completed baseline questionnaires and laboratory assessments (Session 1) and returned 1-4 days later to repeat the laboratory assessments (Session 2); half of the smokers were randomly assigned to overnight tobacco abstinence preceding Session 2.

Results: During Session 2, abstinent smokers reported significantly greater increases in withdrawal symptoms, smoking urges, and negative affect compared with smokers who did not abstain and compared with nonsmokers. Although there was not a significant effect of abstinence on differential reactivity to smoking versus neutral cues, abstinence did result in significantly increased peak provoked urges and negative effect. There was not a significant effect of abstinence on positive affect or reactive irritability,

Conclusions: Our results suggest that adolescents experience increases in withdrawal symptoms, smoking urges (un-cued and peak provoked), and negative affect (un-cued and peak provoked) after acute smoking abstinence, but do not experience the increases in reactive irritability or decreases in positive affect that have been shown in adult smokers. Overall findings support the withdrawal relief and negative reinforcement models of smoking maintenance in adolescents and point to withdrawal, urge, and negative affect as important targets for treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology*
  • Tobacco*
  • Young Adult