What Happens When You Smoke a Cigarette Mindfully? A Deductive Qualitative Study

Min Jeong Yang, Dana Ketcher, Katie Witkiewitz, Marina Unrod, Sana Baban, David W. Wetter, Christine Vinci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The mindful smoking exercise instructs participants to pay attention to a range of experiences while smoking a cigarette with the expectation that it will modify the often automatic process of smoking. Given its theoretical value, mindfulness- and acceptance and commitment therapy–based smoking cessation interventions have usually included a mindful smoking exercise. However, its utility has not been empirically examined. Through qualitative analyses, the current study examined smokers’ lived experience with mindful smoking during an 8-week telehealth group–based smoking cessation and alcohol modification trial. Methods: Participants were smokers who were present in group during the mindful smoking exercise. The recordings of sessions and follow-up interviews in which discussion on mindful smoking took place were transcribed and hand-coded for qualitative analysis. A thematic content analytic approach was used to identify themes. Results: Participants (N = 20) were 75% female (mean age = 49.75, average cigarettes per day = 16.35). Identified themes mapped onto both the theoretical rationale for mindful smoking (e.g., attention/awareness, decentering, similarity/difference between mindful versus automatic smoking) and cognitive-affective-behavioral responses (e.g., unpleasant/pleasant experience, shifts in desire to smoke, cognitive reappraisal). The most prominent themes were attention/awareness, similarity/difference between mindful versus automatic smoking, and unpleasant/pleasant experience. Dynamic interplay between themes was also observed and representative quotes are included. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that intentionally paying attention to smoking led to the reporting of a heightened awareness of automatic behavior accompanied by noticing unpleasant aspects of smoking, potentially facilitating change in one’s relationship to smoking. Theoretical implications of mindful smoking in the context of addiction are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2628-2640
Number of pages13
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (R34AT009689) and by the Participant Research, Interventions, and Measurement Core, the Lung Cancer Center of Excellence, and the Cancer Center Support Grant (P30CA076292) at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, a comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute. MJY was supported by a National Cancer Institute training grant (T32CA090314).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Cigarette smoking
  • Mindful smoking
  • Mindfulness
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Smoking cessation


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