Introduction: Researchers have used breath carbon monoxide (CO) cutoff values ranging from 4 to 10 ppm to define abstinence in cigarette-smoking cessation research and reductions in CO as a measure of acute abstinence in laboratory research. The current study used a reversal design to investigate effects of exhalation speed on CO output in four groups (non-, light, moderate, and heavy smokers; n = 20 per group). Methods: In one condition, participants were instructed to empty their lungs as quickly as possible (fast), whereas in a different condition, participants were instructed to empty their lungs at a slow pace (slow). Conditions were counterbalanced and repeated twice for each participant. Results: For all groups, speed of exhalation was significantly lower during the slow condition than during the fast condition, and CO output was significantly higher during the slow condition than during the fast condition. Sensitivity and specificity analyses revealed that the optimal CO cutoff for smoking abstinence was 3 ppm during the fast condition versus 4 ppm during the slow condition. Additionally, when heavy smokers switched from exhaling slow to exhaling fast, they showed an approximately 30% reduction in CO. Discussion: The results suggest that exhalation speed should be monitored when CO is used as a measure of smoking status for laboratory and smoking cessation research. If exhalation speed is not monitored when using CO to verify smoking cessation, then more conservative CO cutoff values should be used to avoid false negative CO readings.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health