Does cigarette smoking relieve stress? Evidence from the event-related potential (ERP)

Damee Choi, Shotaro Ota, Shigeki Watanuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have reported a paradox that cigarette smoking reduces stress psychologically; however, it increases the arousal level physiologically. To examine this issue, our study aimed to investigate whether cigarette smoking relieves stress by measuring the late positive potential (LPP), a component of the event-related potential (ERP). In Experiment 1, participants first watched emotionally neutral images; second, they received a break; and finally, they watched emotionally neutral images again. In the break, they smoked a cigarette (smoking condition) or simply rested without smoking (non-smoking condition). The procedure of Experiment 2 was the same as that of Experiment 1, except that the participants watched unpleasant images as stress stimuli before the break. In Experiment 1, the LPP decreased from before to after the break in the smoking condition, but not in the non-smoking condition, suggesting that smoking cigarettes in the neutral state reduces the arousal level. In Experiment 2, the LPP for 400-600. ms decreased from before to after the break, both in the smoking and non-smoking conditions; however, the LPP for 200-400. ms decreased from before to after the break only in the smoking condition. This suggests the possibility that cigarette smoking in the unpleasant state may facilitate a decrease in the arousal level faster than with non-smoking. In both Experiments 1 and 2, the subjective rating results also suggested that cigarette smoking decreased anxiety. Taken together, both the physiological (LPP) and the psychological responses from our study suggest that cigarette smoking perhaps relieves stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-476
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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