Predictive Validity of a Cigarette Purchase Task in a Randomized Controlled Trial of Contingent Vouchers for Smoking in Individuals With Substance Use Disorders

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Abstract

Introduction:

A cigarette purchase task (CPT) is a behavioral economic measure of the reinforcing value of smoking in monetary terms (ie, cigarette demand). This study investigated whether cigarette demand predicted response to contingent monetary rewards for abstinence among individuals with substance use disorders. It also sought to replicate evidence for greater price sensitivity at whole-dollar pack price transitions (ie, left-digit effects).

Methods:

Participants (N = 338) were individuals in residential substance use disorder treatment who participated in a randomized controlled trial that compared contingent vouchers to noncontingent vouchers for smoking abstinence. Baseline demand indices were used to predict number of abstinent days during the 14-day voucher period (after the reduction lead-in) and at 1 and 3 months afterward.

Results:

Demand indices correlated with measures of smoking and nicotine dependence. As measured by elasticity, intensity and Omax, higher demand significantly predicted fewer abstinent exhaled carbon monoxide readings during voucher period for individuals in the noncontingent vouchers condition. Breakpoint exhibited a trend-level association with abstinent exhaled carbon monoxide readings. Demand indices did not predict abstinence in the contingent vouchers group, and did not predict abstinence at 1- and 3-month follow-ups. Left-digit price transitions were associated with significantly greater reductions in consumption.

Conclusions:

The association of cigarette demand with smoking behavior only in the group for whom abstinence was not incentivized indicates that CPT assesses the value of smoking more than the value of money per se and that vouchers counteract the effects of the intrinsic reinforcing value of cigarettes. Results provide initial short-term evidence of predictive validity for the CPT indices.

Implications:

This study provides the first evidence of the validity of the CPT for predicting early response to brief advice for smoking cessation plus nicotine replacement in smokers with substance dependence. However, demand for cigarettes did not predict voucher-based treatment response, indicating that incentives serve as a powerful motivator not to smoke that acts in opposition to the intrinsic reinforcing value of cigarettes and that the indices reflect the value of smoking more than the value of money per se.

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