International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 302–309 | Cite as

Effects of Smoking Cessation on Heart Rate Variability Among Long-Term Male Smokers

  • Christopher B. Harte
  • Cindy M. Meston



Cigarette smoking has been shown to adversely affect heart rate variability (HRV), suggesting dysregulation of cardiac autonomic function. Conversely, smoking cessation is posited to improve cardiac regulation.


The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of smoking cessation on HRV among a community sample of chronic smokers.


Sixty-two healthy male smokers enrolled in an 8-week smoking cessation program involving a nicotine transdermal patch treatment. Participants were assessed at baseline (while smoking regularly), at mid-treatment (while using a high-dose patch), and at follow-up, 4 weeks after patch discontinuation. Both time-domain (standard deviation of normal-to-normal (NN) intervals (SDNN), square root of the mean squared difference of successive NN intervals (RMSSD), and percent of NN intervals for which successive heartbeat intervals differed by at least 50 ms (pNN50)) and frequency-domain (low frequency (LF), high frequency (HF), LF/HF ratio) parameters of HRV were assessed at each visit.


Successful quitters (n = 20), compared to those who relapsed (n = 42), displayed significantly higher SDNN, RMSSD, pNN50, LF, and HF at follow-up, when both nicotine and smoke free.


Smoking cessation significantly enhances HRV in chronic male smokers, indicating improved autonomic modulation of the heart. Results suggest that these findings may be primarily attributable to nicotine discontinuation rather than tobacco smoke discontinuation alone.


Smoking Smoking cessation Nicotine Heart rate variability Cardiac autonomic regulation Autonomic nervous system 



This project was supported by Award Number F31DA026276 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to Christopher Harte. The contents of this work are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIDA or the National Institutes of Health. Portions of this work were also made possible by Grant Number 1 RO1 HD051676-01 A1 to Cindy M. Meston from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD. This project was also supported by the following fellowships/awards to the first author: The Sexual Medicine Society of North America Student Research Grant; two Graduate Dean’s Prestigious Fellowship Supplements, and a College of Liberal Arts Graduate Research Fellowship, all from the University of Texas at Austin; the American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award; and The Kinsey Institute Student Research Grant. The authors thank Tyler Watts, Hillary Perlman, Olivia Bentkowski, Alicia Whitaker, Gail Dalton, and Katy Siciliano for help with participant recruitment, screening, and data management.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research ServiceVA Boston Healthcare SystemBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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