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Sociodemographic differences in triggers to quit smoking: findings from a national survey


Objective: Reasons for quitting smoking and triggers that finally precipitate a quit attempt are not necessarily the same thing. We sought to assess variation in reported triggers of attempts to stop smoking as a function of age, gender and socioeconomic status.

Methods: Cross-sectional household survey in England. A total of 2441 smokers and ex-smokers aged 16 and over, who reported making at least one serious quit attempt in the last 12 months, were recruited. The main outcome measure was participants’ responses to the question “What finally triggered your most recent quit attempt?”. Respondents selected from a list of options or specified a trigger not on the list.

Results: In the event, smokers typically reported as triggers similar factors as have previously been reported as “reasons”. “A concern about future health problems” (28.5%) was the most commonly cited trigger followed by “health problems I had at the time” (18%) and then “a decision that smoking was too expensive” (12.2%). The most common external trigger was advice from a health professional (5.6%). Future health concern was more common in smokers with higher socioeconomic status (SES), whereas cost and current health problems were more often cited by lower SES smokers. Younger smokers were more likely to report their quit attempt being triggered by a TV advertisement while older smokers were more likely to cite advice from a health professional. Concern about future health problems was cited less often by 16 to 24 year olds and those aged 65+ than those aged 25 to 64 years.

Conclusions: There are significant differences in reported triggers for quit attempts as a function of sociodemographic factors. Most notably, smokers with higher SES are more likely to report concern about future health whereas those from lower SES are more likely to cite cost and current health problems.

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