Altered reward value of carbohydrate snacks for female smokers withdrawn from nicotine

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; Body Image; Body Mass Index; Body Weight; Conditioning, Operant; Depression; Dietary Carbohydrates; Eating; Female; Food Preferences; Humans; Hunger; Middle Aged; Psychiatric Status Rating Scales; *Reward; Smoking; Smoking Cessation; Tobacco Use Disorder


Behavioral Disciplines and Activities | Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine


Discontinuing nicotine intake usually results in weight gain partially due to heightened energy intake from between-meal snacks. This experiment tested the hypothesis that the reinforcing value of palatable carbohydrate-rich snacks increases for female smokers during nicotine deprivation. Eighteen smokers and 18 nonsmokers completed a concurrent-schedules operant computer task on two separate days. Smokers were bioverified abstinent at the second testing. The operant task allowed participants to earn points redeemable for either carbohydrate snacks or money on concurrent variable-ratio schedules of reinforcement. There were five different probabilities of earning points redeemable for snacks (8%, 16%, 25%, 50%, 75%), while the probability of earning points redeemable for money remained fixed at 25%. Reward value of snacks was measured by switch point: the reinforcement ratio at which the effort required to earn snacks exceeded their value to the respondent, as signified by a shift to working for money. Results showed that smokers undergoing nicotine deprivation persisted in working for snacks into leaner reinforcement schedules than nonsmokers (P=.026). Furthermore, nicotine deprivation increased smokers' allocation of effort to earn snack foods relative to their own behavior when smoking (P=.006). Variation in palatability or hunger did not explain these differences in snack reward value. Findings indicate that nicotine deprivation is associated with a heightened reward value of appealing snack foods for female smokers.


Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Sep;76(2):351-60.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID