Background: Exposure to smoking-related cues leads to increased urge to smoke in regular cigarette smokers and resisting these urges requires considerable self-control.
Purpose: Adopting a resource depletion model, two studies tested the hypothesis that resisting smoking urges depletes self-control resources.
Methods: Adopting a within-participants randomized cross-over design, participants (study 1, N = 19; study 2, N = 32) were exposed to smoking-related (study 1: smoking images; study 2: cigarette cue-exposure task) and neutral (study 1: neutral images; study 2: drinking-straw task) cues with presentation order randomized. After each cue set, participants completed self-control tasks (study 1: handgrip task; study 2: handgrip and Stroop tasks), performance on which constituted dependent measures of self-control.
Results: Self-control task performance was significantly impaired when exposed to smoking-related cues compared to neutral cues. No significant presentation-order effects, or interaction effects between stimulus and presentation order, were found.
Conclusions: Findings corroborate our hypothesis that resisting smoking urges depletes cigarette smokers' self-control resources and suggests that self-control capacity is governed by a limited resource.