Nicotine withdrawal in chippers and regular smokers: subjective and cognitive effects

Health Psychol. 1995 Jul;14(4):301-9. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.14.4.301.


From previous studies, chippers (very light, long-time cigarette smokers) seem not to be nicotine dependent, despite decades of smoking. The effect of tobacco deprivation on chippers' withdrawal reactions was examined. Matched groups of 26 chippers and 25 regular smokers were studied while abstaining or smoking for 2-day blocks, with assessments administered 5 times daily by palm-top computers. As hypothesized, chippers showed no changes as a result of nicotine deprivation. In contrast, regular smokers demonstrated distinct changes in craving, mood, arousal, and sleep disturbance. The computers also tested participants' cognitive performance. Unlike chippers, regular smokers' performance on complex tasks was slower under deprivation; the effect could not be explained by changes in motor performance or simple reaction time. Results suggest performance may have been improved by nicotine rather than by worsened by withdrawal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Arousal
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*