, Volume 235, Issue 1, pp 193–202 | Cite as

Sex differences in tobacco withdrawal and responses to smoking reduced-nicotine cigarettes in young smokers

  • Paul Faulkner
  • Nicole Petersen
  • Dara G. Ghahremani
  • Chelsea M. Cox
  • Rachel F. Tyndale
  • Gerhard S. Hellemann
  • Edythe D. London
Original Investigation



Policies that establish a standard for reduced nicotine content in cigarettes can decrease the prevalence of smoking in the USA. Cigarettes with nicotine yields as low as 0.05 mg produce substantial occupancy of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (26%), but women and men respond differently to these cigarettes.


This study aimed to measure responses to smoking cigarettes that varied widely in nicotine yields, investigating whether sex differences in the effects on craving, withdrawal, and affect would be observed at even lower nicotine yields than previously studied, and in young smokers.


Overnight abstinent young smokers (23 men, 23 women, mean age 22.18) provided self-reports of craving, withdrawal, and affect before and after smoking cigarettes with yields of 0.027, 0.110, 0.231, or 0.763 mg nicotine, and evaluated characteristics of each cigarette.


Compared to abstinent young men, abstinent young women reported greater negative affect, psychological withdrawal, and sedation, all of which were relieved equally by all cigarettes. Men but not women reported greater craving reduction, perceived nicotine content, and cigarette liking with increasing nicotine dose.


Men may experience less smoking-related relief of craving, and enjoy cigarettes less, if nicotine yields are reduced to very low levels. Conversely, women respond equally well to cigarettes with nicotine yields as low as 0.027 mg as to cigarettes with nicotine yields 28-fold higher (0.763 mg). These differences are relevant for policy regarding reduced nicotine in cigarettes and may influence the efficacy and acceptability of reduced-nicotine cigarettes as smoking cessation aids.


Nicotine Sex differences Smoking Craving Affect Nicotine withdrawal 


Funding information

This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse R01 DA036487 (EDL), the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center/UCLA National Center of Excellent in Women’s Health Pilot Research Project UL1TR000124 (EDL and NP), endowments from the Thomas P and Katherine K Pike Chair in Addiction Studies (EDL) and the Marjorie M Greene Trust, and the Canada Research Chairs Program (Dr. Tyndale, the Canada Research Chair in Pharmacogenomics).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

RF Tyndale has consulted for Apotex on issues unrelated to smoking.

Supplementary material

213_2017_4755_MOESM1_ESM.docx (67 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 67 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Faulkner
    • 1
  • Nicole Petersen
    • 1
  • Dara G. Ghahremani
    • 1
  • Chelsea M. Cox
    • 2
  • Rachel F. Tyndale
    • 3
    • 4
  • Gerhard S. Hellemann
    • 1
  • Edythe D. London
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel InstituteUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of IllinoisChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Campbell Family Mental Health Research InstituteCentre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)TorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Molecular and Medical PharmacologyUniversity of California Los AngelesCaliforniaUSA
  6. 6.The Brain Research InstituteUniversity of California Los AngelesCaliforniaUSA

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