Shiffman S, Dunbar MS, Li X, Scholl SM, Tindle HA, Anderson SJ, Ferguson SG. Smoking patterns and stimulus control in intermittent and daily smokers. PloS one. 9(9). e89911. Smoking patterns and stimulus control in intermittent and daily smokers PMID: 24599056 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3943840
Intermittent smokers (ITS) - who smoke less than daily - comprise an increasing proportion of adult smokers. Their smoking patterns challenge theoretical models of smoking motivation, which emphasize regular and frequent smoking to maintain nicotine levels and avoid withdrawal, but yet have gone largely unexamined. We characterized smoking patterns among 212 ITS (smoking 4-27 days per month) compared to 194 daily smokers (DS; smoking 5-30 cigarettes daily) who monitored situational antecedents of smoking using ecological momentary assessment. Subjects recorded each cigarette on an electronic diary, and situational variables were assessed in a random subset (n=21,539 smoking episodes); parallel assessments were obtained by beeping subjects at random when they were not smoking (n=26,930 non-smoking occasions). Compared to DS, ITS' smoking was more strongly associated with being away from home, being in a bar, drinking alcohol, socializing, being with friends and acquaintances, and when others were smoking. Mood had only modest effects in either group. DS' and ITS' smoking were substantially and equally suppressed by smoking restrictions, although ITS more often cited self-imposed restrictions. ITS' smoking was consistently more associated with environmental cues and contexts, especially those associated with positive or "indulgent" smoking situations. Stimulus control may be an important influence in maintaining smoking and making quitting difficult among ITS.