Non-addictive factors in the use of tobacco and nicotine-containing consumer products
One explanation for the use of tobacco and nicotine containing consumer products is that various sensorimotor elements (e.g. taste, feel, ceremony) maintain a pleasurable, long-term habit. Recent experiences with nicotine-free consumer products and very low nicotine content cigarettes do demonstrate that sensorimotor elements can be reinforcing but are, in general, insufficient to maintain long-term behaviour. Rather the presence and moreover the bio-availability of nicotine in sufficient quantities is generally acknowledged to be the main predictor of continued product use.
At the exposure levels associated with the use of tobacco and nicotine-containing products, nicotine exerts biological effects on several body systems leading to changes in cardiovascular, muscular, endocrine, and nervous system function. Accumulating evidence suggests that nicotine induced changes in central nervous system function - psychoactive effects - are central to the use of such products.
The commonly accepted hypothesis is that these psychoactive effects simply serve to mitigate the negative withdrawal experiences associated with nicotine dependence. Yet many users of tobacco and nicotine-containing consumer products fail to meet a dependence classification. This implies that product use is also motivated by factors other than those related to an underlying “addiction” and further suggests that the psychoactive effects of nicotine may be deliberately employed to achieve desired behavioural outcomes.
Cognitive enhancement and mood regulation have been identified as two key elements in decisions to use tobacco and (more recently) nicotine containing consumer products. This presentation will examine the existing scientific evidence to establish whether cognition can in fact be enhanced and mood regulated by nicotine and whether these effects serve as non-addictive factors in the use of these products.