, Volume 153, Issue 2, pp 249-257

Effects of abstinence and smoking on information processing in adolescent smokers

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Rationale: Although adolescent smokers appear to display some of the hallmark features of dependence, the biological and behavioral effects of smoking in this population are poorly understood. Objectives: This study aimed to define empirically the effects of abstinence and smoking in adolescent smokers, using indices validated in adult smokers. Methods: Subjects were 16 young novice smokers (five male, 11 female), ages 14–18 years. A modified Stroop task measured the ability to inhibit attention to smoking-related cues; the classic Stroop task measured the ability to inhibit a pre-potent response (i.e. reading a word); a rapid information processing (RIP) task measured vigilance. Results: Abstinence increased and smoking decreased the intrusiveness of smoking cues. Parallel effects were seen in commission errors on the RIP task. These effects were restricted to heavier smokers (>11 cigarettes/day). Subjective withdrawal effects predicted the intrusiveness of smoking words during abstinence. The number of cigarettes smoked per day predicted the beneficial effect of smoking on the classic as well as modified Stroop tasks. The physiological effects of abstinence and smoking predicted RIP performance. Conclusions: Abstinence impairs and smoking improves inhibitory information processing in young novice smokers in a manner similar to adult smokers. Daily frequency of smoking is a critical moderator of these effects.