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BMC Public Health. 2015 Jan 21;15:4. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-15-4.

"I don't mind damaging my own body" a qualitative study of the factors that motivate smokers to quit.

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Department of Health Sciences, The University of Leicester, Adrian Building, University Road, LE1 7RH Leicester, UK.



Although smoking prevalence in England has declined, one in five adults smoke. Smokers are at increased risk of a number of diseases, including COPD which affects an estimated 1.5 million people in England alone. This study aimed to explore issues relating to smoking behaviour and intention to quit that might be used to inform the development of cessation interventions. Issues explored included knowledge of smoking related disease, with a particular emphasis on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Understanding around risk of disease, including genetic risk was explored, as were features of appropriate and accessible cessation materials and support.


Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with a total of 30 individuals of which 17 were smoking cessation clients and 13 were professionals working within health care settings relevant to supporting smokers to quit. A largely purposive approach was taken to sampling, and data were analysed using the constant comparative method.


Knowledge of the smoking related disease COPD was limited. Smokers' concerns around risk of disease were influenced by their social context and were more focussed on how their smoking might impact on the health of their family and friends, rather than how it might impact on them as individuals. Participants felt the provision of genetic risk information may have a limited impact on motivation to quit. Genetic risk was considered to be a difficult concept to understand, particularly as increased risk does not mean an individual will definitely develop disease. In terms of cessation approaches, the use of visual media was consistently supported, as was the use of materials that linked directly with life experiences. Images of children inhaling second hand smoke for example, had a particular impact.


Public health messages around the risks of smoking and approaches to quitting should continue to have an emphasis on the dangers that an individual's smoking has on the lives of the people around them. More work also needs to be done to raise awareness around both the risk of COPD in smokers and the impact this disease has on quality of life and life expectancy.

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