, Volume 184, Issue 3-4, pp 600-607
Date: 02 Aug 2005

Sex differences in the influence of nicotine dose instructions on the reinforcing and self-reported rewarding effects of smoking

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Compared to men, the smoking behavior of women may be less responsive to nicotine and more responsive to nonpharmacological factors, perhaps including verbal information (e.g., dose instructions).


This study compared the influence of the presence vs absence of dose instructions on the subjective and reinforcing effects of nicotine via cigarette smoking in men and women.


Subjects (n=120) abstained overnight from smoking and were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Half of the subjects received nicotine cigarettes (Quest 1, yield of 0.6 mg), and the other half received denicotinized cigarettes (“denic”; Quest 3, yield of 0.05 mg). Furthermore, half of each subsample was accurately instructed they were receiving a “normal nicotine” or a “no nicotine” cigarette, while the other half received no instructions. Subjects completed baseline measures of craving and mood (positive and negative affect), took two puffs from the cigarette after receiving dose instructions or no instructions, and then rated the cigarette's “reward” value (liking, satisfying) and other characteristics. They also repeated the craving and mood measures. Subjects then smoked more of that same brand ad libitum over the next 30 min to measure reinforcement (puff number and latency to first puff).


Overall, nicotine increased reward, other cigarette ratings, and positive affect, but did not affect craving or smoking behavior. However, results varied by sex. Dose instructions enhanced the effects of nicotine on smoking reward and reinforcement in women, while instructions tended to dampen or even reverse these effects of nicotine in men (i.e., interaction of sex×nicotine×instructions).


In women but not in men, the influence of nicotine on smoking reward and reinforcement is enhanced by accurate verbal information about the cigarette's nicotine dose. These results are consistent with the notion that the smoking behavior of women, relative to men, may be more responsive to nonpharmacological factors.