Distinct influences of nicotine and sensorimotor stimuli on reducing cravings to smoke and vape among dual users

Addict Behav. 2021 Nov;122:107051. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.107051. Epub 2021 Jul 15.


Introduction: When considering the clinical efficacy of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, non-pharmacologic influences, such as conditioned reinforcers (e.g. sensorimotor stimuli), must be considered in addition to nicotine. The present study parsed the influences of nicotine delivery and sensorimotor stimuli (i.e, similarity to smoking) on cravings and other immediate outcomes of e-cigarette use.

Method: Participants (N = 127 dual users) completed an experimental ad-lib vaping session in one of 4 conditions: Drug (open label nicotine vs non-nicotine e-cigarettes) crossed with delivery apparatus (normal e-cigarette vs altered sensorimotor apparatus). It was hypothesized that participants who were deprived of the usual vaping stimuli would report less craving reduction via vaping. Nicotine was hypothesized to enhance physiological outcomes.

Results: Moderate effects emerged for nicotine, whereas smaller effects were observed for the sensorimotor manipulation upon both cravings to smoke and cravings to vape. Contrary to the hypothesis, participants who vaped using the altered sensorimotor apparatus reported greater craving reduction compared to those who used normal e-cigarettes. Nicotine delivery also had moderate effects on psychological reward. Main effects were not moderated by gender, withdrawal, or dependence.

Conclusions: Findings support the role of nicotine in reducing cravings via vaping. They also suggest that sensorimotor similarities to smoking may be less important among experienced vapers or dual users. Indeed, in this sample, the altered sensorimotor apparatus may have reduced craving via distraction or other mechanisms.

Keywords: Dual users; E-cigarettes; Experiment; Nicotine; Sensorimotor stimuli; Smoking cessation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Craving
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Nicotine* / adverse effects
  • Vaping*


  • Nicotine