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The Smoking Abstinence Questionnaire

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Peter Hendricks, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2007 (Cycle 16) Grant #: 16FT-0049 Award: $74,997
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards

Initial Award Abstract
“Expectancies” are the consequences that people expect from their actions. They represent if-then thoughts (e.g., “If I do not eat, then I will feel hungry.”) that strongly influence many aspects of human behavior. With respect to cigarette use, expectancies are the effects that people anticipate when they smoke, as well as when they abstain from smoking. Examples might include, “Smoking makes me relaxed,” or “If I stop smoking cigarettes, my health will improve.”

Smokers’ expectancies about cigarette use are strongly related to a variety of important smoking behaviors. They can reliably predict if an individual will begin smoking, how addicted to cigarettes he or she will be, how motivated to quit he or she will be, and whether he or she will be successful at quitting. Although a good deal is known about smokers’ expectancies for cigarette use, relatively little is known about the consequences that smokers expect when they attempt to quit smoking, or “abstinence-related expectancies.” However, this information carries a great deal of significance. For instance, smokers who anticipate that quitting will be an unpleasant experience with few benefits may have little or no motivation to stop using cigarettes. Those who underestimate the difficulty associated with quitting may be at especially high risk for relapse. Abstinence-related expectancies can be directly addressed by clinicians, ultimately improving the effectiveness of their smoking treatments.

The first step toward gaining a complete understanding of smokers’ abstinence-related expectancies is the development of a questionnaire that measures these expectancies. Developing such a questionnaire will help identify the spectrum of consequences that smokers anticipate when they attempt to quit smoking. Participants will be 500 men and women smokers of various ages, races/ethnicities, education, income, and smoking behaviors. They will complete a draft version of our experimental questionnaire, the Smoking Abstinence Questionnaire (SAQ). Upon collecting our data, we will refine the SAQ to a final product with the use of established scientific procedures. As an initial test of the usefulness of the SAQ, we will examine its relationship to other, well-known, important smoking-related variables. We expect that the SAQ will have strong relationships with these variables, including nicotine dependence (i.e., level of addiction to cigarettes), intention to quit, and confidence in ability to quit. This would indicate that the SAQ is indeed measuring an important smoking-related concept.

In summary, the proposed study will help provide a more complete understanding of the problem of smoking. The process of quitting will be more fully understood, and future experiments will be able to explore the role of abstinence-related expectancies in the quitting process. This will lead to improvements in existing smoking treatments. Finally, this investigation may have immediate consequences for the treatment of smoking. For example, the SAQ may prove a powerful tool for clinicians in providing tailored, and thus more effective, smoking cessation treatments.