Do current smokers use more cigarettes and become more dependent on nicotine because of psychological distress after a natural disaster?
Natural disasters increase nicotine dependence and cigarette consumption, but the exact mechanisms and conditions responsible for this increase are relatively unclear. This study explored whether posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms were pathways to increased nicotine dependence and cigarette consumption after disaster exposure using a representative sample of current smokers who were living in New Orleans at the time Hurricane Katrina struck (n = 175), and a comparison sample of smokers from Memphis (n = 222) who were not directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina. We assessed whether nicotine dependence and daily cigarette consumption differed by city and evaluated potential mediators and moderators of this association using conditional process analysis. Results showed that though nicotine dependence (B = 0.46, SE = 0.20, p =.02) and average daily cigarette consumption (B = 2.19, SE = 0.80, p =.01) were higher among New Orleans than Memphis smokers 27 months after Hurricane Katrina, hurricane exposure did not indirectly affect nicotine dependence and average daily cigarette consumption through increases in posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms. Smokers who are exposed to disasters may not be increasing their cigarette use and their dependency on nicotine because of post-disaster psychological distress. Future studies should investigate other mechanisms and conditions to explain post-disaster changes in smoking behavior.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Alexander, A.C., Ward, K.D., Forde, D.R., Stockton, M., Read, M.C. (2019) Do Current Smokers Use More cigarettes and Become More Dependent on Nicotine Because of Psychological Distress after a Natural Disaster? Addictive Behaviors, 129-134.