Although negative affect is associated with a number of smoking-related cognitive processes, the mechanisms underlying these associations have yet to be examined. The current study sought to examine the indirect effect of emotion regulation difficulties in terms of the association between negative affect and smoking-related cognitive processes (internal barriers to cessation, negative affect reduction smoking motives, negative affect reduction smoking outcome expectancies).
Participants were 126 daily cigarette smokers (70.4% male, Mage = 36.5 years, SD = 13.0; 69.8% Caucasian) who smoked an average of 18.5 (SD = 8.7) cigarettes per day and reported moderate nicotine dependence.
Formal mediation analyses were conducted using PROCESS to examine the indirect effect of negative affect on internal barriers to cessation and negative affect reduction smoking motives and outcome expectancies through emotion regulation difficulties. After accounting for the effects of gender, daily smoking rate, and anxiety sensitivity, negative affect was indirectly related to internal barriers to cessation and negative affect reduction smoking motives through emotion regulation difficulties. There was no significant indirect effect for negative affect reduction smoking outcome expectancies.
These findings suggest that greater negative affect is associated with a desire to smoke to reduce this negative affect and perceptions that quitting smoking will be difficult due to negative emotions because of greater difficulties managing these negative emotions. Thus, emotion regulation difficulties may be an important target for smoking cessation interventions.