Smoking as alternative to eating among restrained eaters: effect of food prime on young adult female smokers

Health Psychol. 2014 Oct;33(10):1174-1184. doi: 10.1037/hea0000123.


Objective: Restrained eaters attempt to employ cognitive control over decisions to eat, which leaves them prone to eat in a disinhibited manner. This eating style is associated with elevated rates of smoking compared to the general population. The current study merged smoking and eating research methodology to investigate a mechanism that may underlie this association by testing whether a food prime, which has been found to elicit disinhibited eating in restrained eaters, could also motivate smoking as an alternative to eating.

Method: Using a randomized, 2-arm (Prime/No-Prime) between-subjects design, it was hypothesized that young adult female smokers who endorsed elevated dietary restraint and received a food prime would smoke more when given the option, compared to smokers who did not receive the food prime.

Results: As predicted, restraint score moderated the effect of the food prime upon smoking behavior (latency to first puff, β = 1, t = 3.8, df = 123, p < .001) and cigarette craving (β = -.79, t = -2.9, df = 127, p < .005), suggesting that after a food prime, restrained-eating smokers may opt to smoke to prevent further food intake.

Conclusion: This study identified a pathway, namely violation of dietary restraint, linking eating and smoking behaviors that may contribute to the population-based covariance between disordered eating and tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Appetite / drug effects*
  • Body Image
  • Caloric Restriction / psychology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Young Adult