Because the rate of smoking has largely stabilized over the past decade and most smokers are uninterested in quitting in the near future, unmotivated smokers represent an important population to target for public health efforts. Clinical interventions that induce quit attempts among smokers who are not yet ready to quit are limited in availability and effectiveness. Since quit attempts introduce marked symptoms of affective and somatic distress due to nicotine withdrawal, it stands to reason that inability or unwillingness to endure this distress impedes smokers from even trying to quit, just as it impedes success once an attempt is made. The literature on distress intolerance (DI) focuses almost exclusively on the latter (e.g., as a predictor of relapse), with very little focus on the former (e.g., undermining motivation to quit). The proposed study will assess DI among and between smokers who are vs. are not motivated to quit, as well as the impact of DI on smoking lapse behavior in a laboratory analog task. Findings are expected to identify between-group differences that help to clarify relationships between DI and motivation to quit smoking. As DI is a promising target for intervention, results are expected to inform treatment strategies that may help to foster motivation among smokers not ready to quit.
Unmotivated smokers represent a large, important, and understudied population to target in public health efforts. However, intervention research typically relies on selected volunteer samples of smokers, so little is known about barriers to undergoing a quit attempt among unmotivated smokers. The proposed research has the potential to identify a promising target for treatment among unmotivated smokers and contribute to the development of tailored intervention strategies to increase rate and success of future quit attempts.