Gender and stimulus control of smoking behavior

Nicotine Tob Res. 2015 Apr;17(4):431-7. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntu195.


Introduction: Gender differences in smoking behavior have been proposed to account for poorer outcomes among women attempting to quit. Specifically, it has been suggested that women's smoking behavior is less motivated by nicotine-seeking and more driven by environmental cues. To date, however, few real-world studies have examined the hypothesis that women's smoking is under greater stimulus control.

Methods: One hundred and ninety four daily smokers (men = 107; women = 87) completed 3 weeks of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) monitoring that provided data on real-world smoking behavior by reporting on situational contexts shown by previous research to influence smoking behavior (including social setting, cigarette availability, alcohol consumption, and mood).

Results: Analyses of particular cues found few gender differences; however, men's smoking increased to a greater extent compared with women's when they were with others who were smoking. Idiographic analyses that allow individual subjects to have different directions of linkage to situational cues also were conducted to assess how predictable subjects' smoking was from a range of contextual characteristics. Compared with women, men's smoking was significantly more closely tied to food/alcohol consumption and tended to be more closely tied to social context. No other gender differences were found.

Conclusions: EMA analyses suggest that men and women are similarly influenced by cues, including mood. Where there were gender differences, it was men rather than women whose smoking behavior was more influenced by cues. The data contradict the hypothesis that women's smoking is more influenced by cues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Surveys and Questionnaires