Response to reduced nicotine content cigarettes among smokers differing in tobacco dependence severity

Stephen T. Higgins, Cecilia L. Bergeria, Danielle R. Davis, Joanna M. Streck, Andrea C. Villanti, John R. Hughes, Stacey C. Sigmon, Jennifer W. Tidey, Sarah H. Heil, Diann E. Gaalema, Maxine L. Stitzer, Jeff S. Priest, Joan M. Skelly, Derek D. Reed, Janice Y. Bunn, Morgan A. Tromblee, Christopher A. Arger, Mollie E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This study examines whether tobacco dependence severity moderates the acute effects of reducing nicotine content in cigarettes on the addiction potential of smoking, craving/withdrawal, or smoking topography. Participants (N = 169) were daily smokers with mild, moderate, or high tobacco-dependence severity using the Heaviness of Smoking Index. Following brief abstinence, participants smoked research cigarettes varying in nicotine content (0.4, 2.4, 5.2, 15.8 mg nicotine/g tobacco) in a within-subject design. Results were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of co-variance. No main effects of dependence severity or interactions with nicotine dose were noted in relative reinforcing effects in concurrent choice testing or subjective effects on the modified Cigarette Evaluation Questionnaire. Demand for smoking in the Cigarette Purchase Task was greater among more dependent smokers, but reducing nicotine content decreased demand independent of dependence severity. Dependence severity did not significantly alter response to reduced nicotine content cigarettes on the Minnesota Tobacco Withdrawal Scale nor Questionnaire of Smoking Urges-brief (QSU) Factor-2 scale; dependence severity and dose interacted significantly on the QSU-brief Factor-1 scale, with reductions dependent on dose among highly but not mildly or moderately dependent smokers. Dependence severity and dose interacted significantly on only one of six measures of smoking topography (i.e., maximum flow rate), which increased as dose increased among mildly and moderately but not highly dependent smokers. These results suggest that dependence severity has no moderating influence on the ability of reduced nicotine content cigarettes to lower the addiction potential of smoking, and minimal effects on relief from craving/withdrawal or smoking topography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Craving
  • Dependence severity
  • Heaviness of Smoking Index
  • Reduced nicotine content cigarettes
  • Reinforcement
  • Smoking topography
  • Tobacco dependence
  • Vulnerable populations
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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