Texas Tech University

Expert: Decreased Smoking Good, But Nicotine Remains Serious Public Health Risk

Heidi Toth

May 25, 2016

Yi-Yuan Tang, a psychology professor, studies smoking and the role increasing self-control plays in quitting smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that 15.1 percent of American adults smoked cigarettes in 2015, down almost 2 percent from the year before. This is the lowest recorded smoking rate in the country's history.

Yi-Yuan Tang
Yi-Yuan Tang

Yi-Yuan Tang, a psychology professor at Texas Tech University, studies smoking and the role increasing self-control plays in quitting smoking. He has mixed feelings about the CDC's announcement this week – it's good news, but people who have quit smoking may have moved into other habits that are not much better. His team, as well as others, have found one mechanism for smoking addiction involves a deficit in the part of the brain that affects self-control, so he has focused on targeting the brain's self-control network. His research has found a certain type of mindfulness-based intervention – Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) – helps reduce smoking.


Yi-Yuan Tang, Presidential Endowed Chairman in Neuroscience and professor in the Department of Psychology, (806) 834-8688 or yiyuan.tang@ttu.edu

Talking points

  • The decreased rate of smoking in the United States is great, but the increased popularity of electronic cigarettes likely has played a role. That means nicotine addiction and tobacco remain a major concern.
  • Tobacco is often thought of as a gateway to other drug use, so reducing smoking may reduce the vulnerability to cocaine and other drugs.
  • One of our randomized controlled studies shows in comparison with Relaxation Training, five hours of IBMT produces 60 percent smoking reduction, with 30 percent of participants quitting and reports of decreased cravings, even from smokers who do not intend to quit.
  • It is an urgent need and significant public health benefit to develop an effective and brain-based intervention to address the serious issues in smoking addiction.”
  • “This smoking behavior change is accompanied by increased brain activity in self-control networks in which smokers have reduced activity before intervention, which suggests a brief IBMT may specifically target brain self-control areas.”

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