Increasing the Value of an Alternative Monetary Reinforcer Reduces Cigarette Choice in Adolescents

Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 Dec;17(12):1449-55. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv033. Epub 2015 Feb 8.


Introduction: Smoking can be conceptualized as an operant behavior maintained by the reinforcing effects of cigarettes. Changing the magnitude and availability of alternative reinforcers should shift behavior away from smoking. Adults' smoking behavior is sensitive to the magnitude and availability of alternative reinforcers; however, the extent to which the same is true for adolescents has not yet been shown in the laboratory.

Methods: To test the sensitivity of adolescent smoking behavior to changes in the magnitude of alternative reinforcement, we gave adolescents who abstained overnight the opportunity to make 20 choices between receiving two puffs of their usual-brand cigarette or money. The magnitude of the monetary reinforcer was varied across sessions in counterbalanced order ($0.00, $0.10, and $0.50).

Results: Results indicated that adolescents' choices for puffs decreased as a function of increasing monetary reinforcer magnitude, while money choices increased. This effect was moderated by baseline smoking level and by gender, such that heavier-smoking participants and males made more cigarette choices when the alternative monetary value was zero, and decreased their choices more steeply in response to increasing monetary value.

Conclusions: The current study validates a laboratory choice procedure for studying smoking in adolescents, and demonstrates that adolescent smoking behavior is sensitive to changes in the magnitude of concurrently available monetary reinforcers. The current paradigm can be adapted and applied to explore the effects of other variables that may affect cigarette choice in adolescents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Reward*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Young Adult