Many studies suggest that dependent smokers have a preference or attentional bias toward smoking cues. The purpose of this study was to test the ability of infrequent non-dependent light smokers to control their eye movements by look away from smoking cues. Poor control in the lightest of smokers would suggest nicotine cue-elicited behavior occurring even prior to nicotine dependency as measured by daily smoking.
17 infrequent non-dependent light smokers and 17 lifetime non-smokers performed an antisaccade task (look away from suddenly appearing cue) on smoking, alcohol, neutral, and dot cues.
The light smokers, who were confirmed light smokers and non-dependent (MFaegerström Dependency Score = 0.35), were significantly worse at controlling their eye movements to smoking cues relative to both neutral cues (p < .04) and alcohol cues (p < .02). Light smokers made significantly more errors to smoking cues than non-smokers (p < .004).
These data suggest that prior to developing clinical symptoms of severe dependence or progressing to heavier smoking (e.g., daily smoking), the lightest of smokers are showing a specific deficit in control of nicotine cue-elicited behavior.