Recent evidence implicates steep discounting of delayed outcomes as an important feature of drug dependence. We determined discounting rates for health gains and health losses in current cigarette smokers (n = 23), neversmokers (n = 22) and ex-smokers (n = 21). Participants indicated preference for immediate vs. delayed hypothetical health gains and for immediate vs. delayed hypothetical health losses in a titration procedure that determined indifference points at a range of delays. The degree of discounting was estimated using two nonlinear decay models: an exponential model and a hyperbolic model. The hyperbolic equation generally provided better fits to the data than the exponential equation did. Current smokers discounted delayed health gains and health losses more steeply than never-smokers did. Discounting by ex-smokers was generally intermediate to that of current smokers and never-smokers, although not statistically different from either. Current smokers and ex-smokers discounted delayed health losses more steeply than they did health gains. Never-smokers did not discount gains and losses differently. Cigarette smokers show rapid loss of value for delayed health outcomes, emphasizing the need for smoking-cessation treatments that provide relatively immediate consequences for abstinence.

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