Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas H. Kelly


Like adolescents, young adults are at risk of initiating tobacco use and escalating to daily use and tobacco dependence. However, not every young adult who uses cigarettes intermittently becomes tobacco dependent, and the time-course of those who transition to daily use varies widely. Individual differences likely contribute to the variability observed in patterns of tobacco use. This dissertation uses a multi-modal research approach to examine dimensions of impulsivity and alcohol use that are associated with vulnerability for escalation of cigarette smoking, and whether alcohol’s effects on behavioral disinhibition impact cigarette consumption. Study 1 investigated the associations between dimensions of trait impulsivity, alcohol use, and smoking behavior in a cross-sectional sample of young adults who varied in frequency of cigarette smoking. Study 2 expanded on the results of Study 1 by examining the separate and combined effects of impulsivity and alcohol use on escalation of tobacco use in a longitudinal study of young adults in their first three years of college to determine whether alcohol use and dimensions of impulsivity influenced trajectories of smoking behavior, and whether alcohol use and behavioral impulsivity changed across time as a function of tobacco use trajectories. Study 3 utilized a randomized, within-subject, placebo controlled design to examine whether alcohol-induced impairments in behavioral inhibition mediated the relationship between acute alcohol administration and ad-libitum cigarette consumption. Results from studies 1 and 2 indicated that alcohol use was associated with smoking frequency, and that dimensions of impulsivity (i.e. sensation seeking, lack of premeditation, and urgency) differentiated smoking groups. Study 3 found that acute alcohol increased smoking behavior, but alcohol impairment of inhibitory control did not mediate the relationship between alcohol and smoking consumption. Taken together, the results of these studies demonstrate that alcohol use and impulsivity play a significant role in tobacco use escalation, though more research is needed to determine the mechanism(s) that drive alcohol-induced increases in cigarette consumption.

Included in

Psychology Commons