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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Smokers Report Greater Demand for Alcohol on a Behavioral Economic Purchase Task

Cigarette smokers have higher levels of alcohol consumption than nonsmokers and poorer response to alcohol treatment. It is possible that the greater severity of alcohol problems observed in smokers reflects a greater susceptibility to alcohol-related reinforcement. The present study used a behavioral economic purchase task to investigate whether heavy drinking smokers would have greater demand for alcohol than heavy drinking nonsmokers.

Participants were 207 college students who reported at least one heavy drinking episode in the past month. Of the 207 participants, 33.2% (n = 67) reported smoking cigarettes at least 1 day in the past month. Participants completed the hypothetical alcohol purchase task, a simulation task that asked them to report how many drinks they would purchase at varying price increments.

After the participants' reported alcohol consumption, gender, alcohol problems, and depression were controlled for, analyses of covariance revealed that heavy drinking smokers had significantly greater reported maximum alcohol expenditures (Omax), greater maximum inelastic price (Pmax), and higher breakpoint values (first price suppressing consumption to zero).

College student heavy drinkers who also smoke cigarettes exhibit increased demand for alcohol. Smokers in this high-risk developmental stage may thus be less sensitive to price and other contingencies that would otherwise serve to modulate drinking and may require more intensive intervention approaches.

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