Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. Despite
the well-known negative health consequences of smoking, and substantial prevention and
intervention efforts, many individuals continue to smoke. Our prevention and intervention efforts
have been recently challenged by the dramatic changes in smoking behavior from daily smoking
(DS) to intermittent smoking (ITS). DS is mostly associated with tolerance and craving and is
driven by automatized routines leading to continuous consumption, and characterized by loss of
voluntary control. By contrast, ITS is associated with social motives, it is more dynamic,
characterized by intermittent periods of smoking and abstinence, and uniquely susceptible to
social influences. Despite the lack of nicotine dependence, ITSs have difficulty quitting with
increased risk for smoking-related health consequences. Because, ITS cannot be explained by
nicotine dependence, it requires a different perspective that takes into account its social,
dynamic aspects in order to understand the mechanisms responsible for its initiation and
maintenance. In the current proposal we integrate research on smoking with advances in
motivation and self-regulation and propose a novel perspective that identifies potentially unique
mechanisms underlying ITS compared to DS. We propose that by contrast to DS which is
characterized by craving, automatized routines enacted in the presence of smoking cues, and
lack of control, ITS is an active process initiated as a means to social goals activated by social
cues in the absence of any nicotine-dependence symptoms such as craving. The activation of
the goal that smoking serves may result in the inhibition of inconsistent goals (e.g. health) and
may allow the distortion of the risks associated with smoking. This mechanism might explain
initiation and maintenance of smoking despite negative consequences. Finally, given that ITS is
not compulsive and habitual, inhibition of health-related goals may require executive control.
From this perspective, efficient executive control may perpetuate, rather than prevent ITS. In
line with this perspective we propose an experimental study to compare DSs and ITSs on
smoking-relevant outcomes in the presence of social vs. smoking cues.
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