Study finds smoking tough to quit

Aug. 26, 2008 at 3:09 PM
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PITTSBURGH, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Pittsburgh researchers say they have a fix on why smokers find it tough to quit cold turkey.

A new study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh published in the September issue of Psychological Science, concludes that smokers not currently in a state of craving a cigarette will necessarily underestimate the intensity of their future urge to smoke.

"Exploring the cold-to-hot empathy gap in smokers," looked at the tendency for people in a "cold" state to mispredict their own behavior when in a "hot" state, such as when hungry or fatigued. The researchers studied 98 male and female smokers in each of the two groups, with monetary reward requirements for quitting offered at different stages to test the smokers levels of temptation.

"These findings suggest that smokers are likely to underpredict their own future desire to smoke when they're not craving a cigarette," study co-author and Carnegie Mellon professor George Loewenstein said. "The research not only has implications for helping smokers quit, but it also enlightens us on how non-smokers may pick up the habit.

"If smokers can't appreciate the intensity of their need to smoke when they aren't currently craving, what's the likelihood that people who have never smoked can do so?"

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