Where Is the Pleasure in That? Low Hedonic Capacity Predicts Smoking Onset and Escalation

Corresponding Author: Janet Audrain-McGovern, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market Street, Suite 4100, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Telephone: 215-746-7145
Nicotine & Tobacco Research (Impact Factor: 3.3). 03/2012; 14(10):1187-96. DOI: 10.1093/ntr/nts017
Source: PubMed


Hedonic capacity is a dispositional ability to experience pleasure in response to stimuli that are typically rewarding. The ability to derive pleasure from natural reinforcers has been relatively overlooked as a risk factor for adolescent smoking. The present study sought to provide initial evidence for a relationship between hedonic capacity and adolescent smoking onset and escalation.
The sample was composed of 1,106 adolescents participating in a prospective longitudinal survey study of adolescent health behaviors. Variables were measured via self-report every 6 months for 4 waves of data spanning 18 months. We hypothesized that adolescents with lower hedonic capacity may be less responsive to natural reinforcers and therefore be prone to take up and rely on smoking as a reinforcer.
A two-part latent growth curve model indicated that adolescents low in hedonic capacity were over two and a half times more likely to have smoked a cigarette in the past month at age 15.5 years (odds ratio = 2.64, 95% CI = 1.08-6.45) and to show a 90% increase (β = 0.9, z = 2.28, p = .02) in the rate of smoking escalation every 6 months across the following 18 months compared with adolescents with high hedonic capacity. Conclusions: This study provides the first evidence implicating hedonic capacity as a risk factor for adolescent smoking initiation and progression. Adolescents low in hedonic capacity may be an important population to target for smoking prevention and smoking cessation efforts possibly through behavioral skills to enhance pleasure derived through natural reinforcers.

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