Affective mechanisms of stress-induced cigarette craving: Considerations of gender and race/ethnicity

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Objective: Among the major impediments to successful smoking cessation are strong cravings, especially during times of heightened stress. Affective responses to stress (e.g., acute anxious and depressed mood) may serve as important mediators of cigarette cravings that are amenable to intervention. Experimental models have been developed to reliably induce cravings during stress under laboratory conditions, permitting a closer examination of possible changes in affect that may be driving cigarette cravings. A key limitation of the extant research is its reliance on samples of predominantly White males who smoke. Although several recent studies suggest possible gender- and race/ethnicity-based differences in affective responses to acute stress, no studies have explored how such differences may contribute to cigarette cravings. Method: To address this gap, we conducted an experimental study in which a diverse sample of healthy volunteer female (n = 163) and male (n = 139) nicotine-dependent individuals who smoked were exposed to a stressor (guided imagery of painful dental work). We assessed negative affect and cigarette craving immediately before and after the imaginal dental stressor. Results: Path analyses revealed that the acute stressor induced increases in negative affect, which, in turn, increased cigarette craving (significant direct and indirect effects, p's < 0.05; R2indirect = 0.5). Interestingly, effects were more pronounced in women and in non-White individuals who smoked. Conclusions: Results highlight the important roles of stress and affect in craving, and the need to consider gender and race/ethnicity when developing interventions to manage stress-induced cigarette cravings among individuals attempting to quit.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107293
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Affect
  • Craving
  • Gender
  • Stress


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