Why do young women smoke? III. Attention and impulsivity as neurocognitive predisposing factors

Avi Yakir, Amihai Rigbi, Kyra Kanyas, Yehudah Pollak, Gazit Kahana, Osnat Karni, Renana Eitan, Semion Kertzman, Bernard Lerer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Since nicotine has been shown to facilitate sustained attention and control of impulsivity, impairment in these domains may influence individuals who initiate smoking for various reasons to continue to smoke cigarettes. The purpose of this study was to determine whether young women who smoke regularly but are not abstinent at the time of testing, differ in their cognitive functioning from non-smokers and whether they resemble women who smoked in the past but quit. Female undergraduate students aged 20-30 years were recruited by advertisement from institutes of higher education in the Jerusalem area. The study sample consisted of 91 current smokers (CS), 40 past smokers (PS) and 151 non-smokers (NS). 46 occasional smokers (OS) were also tested. Confounding by withdrawal state was neutralized by including only CS and OS who smoked their last cigarette less than 90 min before testing. Subjects performed a computerized neurocognitive battery, which tests the domains of attention, memory, impulsivity, planning, information processing and motor performance. Analyses were controlled for age. The results showed that CS made significantly more errors than NS on the Continuous Performance Task (CPT), Matching Familiar Figures Test (MFFT) and Tower of London (TOL) test. PS were significantly worse than NS on the MFFT and TOL test. PS did not differ significantly from CS on any test. No association was found between duration of smoking and performance. These findings suggest that a neurocognitive profile characterized by impairments in sustained attention and control of impulsivity may be one of the factors that predispose young women who initiate cigarette smoking to maintain the habit.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)339-351
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by an unrestricted grant from Philip Morris Inc. and Philip Morris, USA. The project was initiated by the investigators and the sponsor had no role in its design, in the analysis and interpretation of the data or in the preparation of the paper.


  • Attention
  • Cigarettes
  • Cognitive performance
  • Impulsivity
  • Nicotine


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