Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Cigarette smoking is a serious health hazard affecting a sizeable proportion of the adult population. The addictive nature of cigarettes has been blamed for the difficulty smokers experience in achieving and maintaining abstinence. Cigarette cravings are frequently cited as a factor contributing to relapse. Addiction theories proposed independently by Wikler, Siegel, and Solomon view cravings as classically conditioned responses to internal or external cues. These responses are presumably multidimensional, having cognitive, emotional, and physiological manifestations.

The current study examined cigarette cravings under controlled laboratory conditions. Forty-six male and female undergraduates served as participants. Stimuli commonly associated with smoking relapse were presented to three groups of subjects: current smokers, recent ex-smokers, and nonsmokers. Both imaginal and in vivo cue exposure were employed.

The findings clearly demonstrated that these laboratory procedures were effective in producing cigarette cravings among former and current smokers, with in vivo exposure eliciting stronger urges than imaginal cue presentation. As predicted, smokers experienced stronger cravings than ex-smokers, while nonsmokers reported essentially no urges to smoke.

The results also supported the multidimensional nature of cravings. Together, state anxiety, skin conductance, and heart rate accounted for 38% of the variance in craving ratings. Individuals with a history of smoking experienced greater anxiety in response to imaginal and in vivo cues than nonsmokers, but the three groups did not differ on physiological reactions to cue exposure.

Multiple regression analyses examined factors associated with craving strength. Cognitive avoidance of imaginal stimuli was not predictive of craving, but clarity of imagery was positively related to urge level. Other variables associated with craving strength included extraversion, trait anxiety, use of stimulant drugs, use of depressant drugs, and nicotine dependence. These baseline variables accounted for approximately a third of the variance in craving responses to cue exposure.

The results of this study are consistent with theoretical views of cigarette cravings as multidimensional conditioned responses. The implications for assessment of cravings in a laboratory setting are discussed.

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