, Volume 210, Issue 3, pp 355-364
Date: 30 Mar 2010

Alcohol expectancy increases positive responses to cigarettes in young, escalating smokers

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A large proportion of smokers consolidate their smoking patterns during young adulthood, and it is possible that the high rates of drinking found in this age group may facilitate the transition from nondaily to daily cigarette use.


The primary aim of this study was to examine how alcohol alters the subjective effects of smoking in heavy-drinking young adults (age 21–25) who are still at an experimental stage of smoking but show recent increases in their smoking behavior.


Using a within-subject design, we examined whether alcohol or the expectation of receiving alcohol increased either subjective responses to smoking or the amount smoked. Subjects participated in three sessions, in which they received alcohol (0.08 g/dL targeted blood alcohol level), a taste-masked placebo presented as alcohol, or a mixer beverage not presented as alcohol. Measures included positive and negative subjective reactivity (e.g., satisfaction, nausea, craving relief, and enjoyment of airway sensations) associated with smoking a single cigarette and subsequent ad lib smoking behavior.


Both conditions in which the subjects expected to receive alcohol increased positive effects of smoking (satisfaction, calm, and taste), compared to the mixer beverage. Alcohol, compared to the placebo and mixer beverages, decreased negative effects (nausea) associated with smoking a cigarette and increased subsequent smoking.


This initial study has implications for understanding how alcohol and the expectation of alcohol improves the experience of smoking in nondaily smokers who are still at an experimental stage of smoking.