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Study Probes Why Smokers Find It Hard to Quit
Date:9/9/2008

When not in a state of craving, they may underestimate intensity of future urge to light up

TUESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- If you're not craving a hit of nicotine the moment you declare you are quitting smoking, your battle just got a little tougher, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

"We have observed previously that the idea of smoking a cigarette becomes increasingly attractive to smokers while they are craving," lead investigator Michael Sayette, a University of Pittsburgh professor of psychology, said in a university news release. "This study suggests that when smokers are not craving, they fail to appreciate just how powerful their cravings will be. This lack of insight while not craving may lead them to make decisions -- such as choosing to attend a party where there will be lots of smoking -- that they may come to regret."

The study, published in the September issue of Psychological Science, examines the "cold-to-hot empathy gap" -- that is, the tendency for people in a "cold" state (one not influenced by visceral factors such as hunger or fatigue) to improperly predict their own behavior when in a "hot" state (hungry, fatigued). This is, in part, because those in the cold state can't recall the intensity of their past cravings.

The researchers gathered 98 smokers for two experimental sessions. Those put in a "hot" state were asked to not smoke for 12 hours prior to the first session, then were induced to crave a cigarette by holding but not smoking a lit one. Those in a "cold" state smoked up until the first session but did not hold a lit cigarette. A comparison group skipped the first session completely.

During the first session, "hot" and "cold" participants were asked how much money they would need to delay smoking for five minutes in the second session, a time when all participants would be in a "hot" state. Smokers in all t
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