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Gender Differences in Negative Affect During Acute Tobacco Abstinence Differ Between African American and White Adult Cigarette Smokers.

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Prior studies have found heightened negative affect following tobacco abstinence in women compared to men. However, experimental work addressing whether these findings generalize across racial groups is scarce. This study investigated whether race (non-Hispanic White vs. non-Hispanic African American) moderated gender differences in abstinence-induced negative affect and smoking behavior.


Data were collected from 2010 to 2017 from two separate laboratory studies investigating experimentally manipulated tobacco abstinence. Following a baseline session, adult daily smokers (≥10 cigarettes/day; women: n = 297, 83.8% non-Hispanic African American; men: n = 492, 86.2% non-Hispanic African American) attended two counterbalanced lab sessions (16 hours abstinent vs. non-abstinent) and completed self-report measures of negative affect followed by a laboratory analogue smoking reinstatement task.


We found a gender × race interaction for several negative affect states and composite negative affect (βs = -.12 to -.16, Ps < .05). Analyses stratified by race showed that non-Hispanic White women compared to non-Hispanic White men exhibited greater abstinence-induced increases in anger, anxiety, and composite negative affect (βs = -.20 to -.29, Ps < .05). No significant gender differences in abstinence-induced negative affect were found for non-Hispanic African American smokers (βs = .00 to - .04, Ps > .05).


These findings suggest that negative affect during acute tobacco abstinence may be a clinically important and intervenable factor that can inform cessation interventions specifically for non-Hispanic White women smokers. Further empirical exploration of mechanisms underlying interactions of gender and race in tobacco addiction may benefit smoking cessation efforts in non-Hispanic African American women smokers.


This study contributes to a scant body of research examining the intersectional influence of race and gender on abstinence-induced negative affect-a central, motivationally prepotent feature of tobacco withdrawal. Using a laboratory-based design to experimentally manipulate abstinence, we provide evidence of a gender × race interaction on negative affect-related withdrawal. Our findings suggest that gender differences in abstinence-induced negative affect observed among non-Hispanic White smokers may not generalize to non-Hispanic African American smokers, highlighting the need for future work to address potential mechanisms underlying the racially discrepant impact of gender on affective tobacco withdrawal.

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