October 2002

Grant Results

SUMMARY

Between 1998 and 2001, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, conducted a study of trends in nicotine dependence among adolescents.

Knowledge about adolescent smokers has been limited and smoking prevention efforts directed toward adolescents tended to have short-lived effects.

Key Findings

  • Non-daily and daily adolescent smokers both show dependence on tobacco. The finding indicates that even non-daily smokers absorb physiologically active doses of nicotine, putting them at high risk of becoming daily smokers.
  • Investigators also believe that adolescents, even those who do not smoke every day, may become dependent on smoking sooner than previously believed.
  • After smoking a cigarette, adolescents reported decreases in desire and urge to smoke.
  • Daily and non-daily smokers showed an increase in their heart rate of 37 percent and 33 percent respectively after they smoked a cigarette. This change in heart rate is about twice the rate for adult smokers.
  • Novice smokers may smoke more to achieve pleasurable effects than to alleviate withdrawal.
  • As in adult smokers, smoking appears to improve a novice smoker's ability to focus on a challenging mental task, an effect that could provide an incentive to continue smoking.

Funding
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $42,835 between October 1998 and September 2001.

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THE PROJECT

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, conducted a study of trends in nicotine dependence among adolescents.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded this study because knowledge about adolescent smokers has been limited and smoking prevention efforts directed toward adolescents tended to have short-lived effects.

Investigators conducted two studies of adolescents ages 12 to 18 years old in and around Toronto, Canada. Both samples included adolescents who regularly smoked, as well as those who had tried tobacco but were not regular smokers.

All participants smoked a cigarette during the experiment, a protocol pre-approved by the human subject review board at the Addiction Research Foundation.

According to the principal investigator, these were the first studies to examine how adolescents smoke and the effects of smoking on their physiology, behavior and motivation to smoke.

The subjects were told not to smoke the day of the test, so that the effects of smoking could be assessed in all participants against a common background of short-term abstinence.

In the first experiment, 16 adolescents took tests measuring their ability to process information before and after smoking a cigarette at the investigator's laboratory.

They also took self-report tests measuring their cravings for a cigarette. A machine attached to the cigarette measured:

  • Their inhalation rate.
  • How frequently they took a puff.
  • Other measures of smoking.

In a second experiment consisting of 21 daily and 21 non-daily smokers, investigators measured:

  • Physiological effects (such as the amount of nicotine absorbed and heart rate).
  • Subjective effects.
  • Inhalation rate.
  • Other measures of smoking.

Findings from this research were published in the journals Addiction and Psychopharmacology.

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KEY FINDINGS

  • Non-daily and daily adolescent smokers both show dependence on tobacco. The finding indicates that even non-daily smokers absorb physiologically active doses of nicotine, putting them at high risk of becoming daily smokers.
  • Investigators also believe that adolescents, even those who do not smoke every day, may become dependent on smoking sooner than previously believed. Daily smokers showed an even greater dependence on tobacco.
  • After smoking a cigarette, adolescents reported decreases in desire and urge to smoke. The existence of these effects even in smokers who do not smoke every day shows that smoking can quickly become a strong influence in an adolescent's life.
  • Daily and non-daily smokers showed an increase in their heart rate of 37 percent and 33 percent respectively after they smoked a cigarette. This change in heart rate is about twice the rate for adult smokers.

    If the increases in heart rate are typical for adolescent smokers, then a large burden is placed on the cardiovascular system of young tobacco users, investigators report.

    While that burden may not have immediate implications for healthy young hearts, the results suggest that some of the health consequences that develop in adult smokers have their origin early in a smoker's tobacco career.
  • Novice smokers may smoke more to achieve pleasurable effects than to alleviate withdrawal. This role of the positive reinforcing effects of cigarettes suggests that a failure to address the primary motivation to smoke is one reason why nicotine patch therapy (which aims to alleviate withdrawal) is not effective in adolescents who wish to stop smoking.
  • As in adult smokers, smoking appears to improve a novice smoker's ability to focus on a challenging mental task, an effect that could provide an incentive to continue smoking. This effect is more pronounced in smokers who smoke more than half a pack of cigarettes a day.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Research on Nicotine Exposure and Dependence Associated With Different Levels of Adolescent Smoking

Grantee

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Addiction Research Foundation Division (Toronto,  ON)

  • Amount: $ 42,835
    Dates: October 1998 to September 2001
    ID#:  035116

Contact

William A. Corrigall, Ph.D.
(301) 435-1324
wcorriga@nida.nih.gov

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Articles

Corrigall W, Zack M, Eissenberg T, Belsito L and Scher R. "Acute Subjective and Physiological Responses to Smoking in Adolescents." Addiction, 96(10): 1409–1417, 2001. Abstract available online.

Zack M, Belsito L, Scher R, Eissenberg T and Corrigall WA. "Effects of abstinence and smoking on information processing in adolescent smokers." Psychopharmacology, 153(2): 249–257, 2001. Abstract available online.

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Report prepared by: Susan G. Parker
Reviewed by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Karen K. Gerlach

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