Behavioral and cognitive effects of smoking: Relationship to nicotine addiction

Stephen J. Heishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nicotine addiction is an extremely complex process that involves biological, psychological, behavioral, and cultural factors. Three factors that influence smoking and that are influenced by smoking are performance, stress, and body weight. We know that if nicotine-addicted smokers are deprived of nicotine, attentional and cognitive abilities can be impaired, and such deficits can be reversed if the person smokes or is given nicotine. In nonsmokers and nondeprived smokers, nicotine enhances finger tapping, focused and sustained attention, recognition memory, and reasoning. Stress results in increased smoking, but there is little empirical evidence that smoking reduces stress. Stress reduction from smoking is likely the relief of withdrawal-induced negative mood that is experienced between cigarettes. Smokers weigh on average 3-4 kg less than nonsmokers, and the weight-gain seen after quitting smoking also averages 3-4 kg. Changes in eating and energy expenditure are responsible for the body weight changes seen during smoking cessation and relapse. We need to know the full range of conditions under which nicotine affects behavior. The mechanisms by which stress functions to maintain nicotine addiction are not well understood. We do not know what interventions are effective in addressing the stress experienced during smoking cessation. Because no effective interventions have been developed to prevent weight-gain after quitting, research should focus on the concern or perception of weight-gain. We need to understand how and why body weight concerns vary across gender, age, and ethnicity because of the implications for designing effective smoking-cessation programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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