Combined smoking cues enhance cue-induced craving and smoking behavior, and predict immediate subsequent smoking

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Publication Date


Publication Title

Nicotine & Tobacco Research


smoking cues, smoke, cigarettes, craving, smokers



Cue reactivity (CR) research has reliably demonstrated robust cue-induced responding among smokers exposed to common proximal smoking cues (eg, cigarettes, lighter). More recent work demonstrates that distal stimuli, most notably the actual environments in which smoking previously occurred, can also gain associative control over craving. In the real world, proximal cues always occur within an environment; thus, a more informative test of how cues affect smokers might be to present these two cue types simultaneously.


Using a combined-cue counterbalanced CR paradigm, the present study tested the impact of proximal (smoking and neutral) + personal environment (smoking and nonsmoking places) pictorial cues, on smokers’ subjective and behavioral CR; as well as the extent to which cue-induced craving predicts immediate subsequent smoking in a within-subjects design.


As anticipated, the dual smoking cue combination (ProxS + EnvS) led to the greatest cue-induced craving relative to the other three cue combinations (ProxS + EnvN, ProxN + EnvS, and ProxN ± EnvN), ps < .004. Dual smoking cues also led to significantly shorter post-trial latencies to smoke, ps < .01. Overall CR difference score (post-trial craving minus baseline craving) was predictive of subsequent immediate smoking indexed by: post-trial latency to smoke [B = −2.69, SE = 9.02; t(143) = −2.98, p = .003]; total puff volume [B = 2.99, SE = 1.13; t(143) = 2.65, p = .009]; and total number of puffs [B = .053, SE = .027; t(143) = 1.95, p = .05].


The implications of these findings for better understanding the impact of cues on smoking behavior and cessation are discussed.


This novel cue reactivity study examined smokers’ reactivity to combined proximal and distal smoking cues. Exposure to a combination of two smoking cues (proximal and environment) led to the greatest increases in cue-induced craving and smoking behavior compared to all other cue combinations. Further, the overall magnitude of cue-induced craving was found to significantly predict immediate subsequent smoking. This work provides new insight on how exposure to various cues and cue combinations directly affect smokers’ craving and actual smoking behavior, as well as the relationship between those two indices of reactivity.


This work was supported by a National Institutes of Health grant (R01DA023646) awarded to CAC.

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco 2018.

This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.