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Smoking cessation: intentions, attempts and techniques

Publication: Health Reports 2009:20(3)

Authors: Scott T. Leatherdale and Margot Shields

Data: 2006 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey

Intention and attempts to quit

About one in five Canadians (19%) aged 15 or older was a current smoker in 2006.   One-third of them reported intentions to quit in the next month.

Almost half (48%) reported that they had tried to quit
at least once in the previous year.  The likelihood of having made an attempt to quit declined at older ages. The intention to quit was strongly associated with the number of past quit attempts.

The number of times smokers had tried to quit was also related to age: teenagers 15 to 19 averaged 2.5 quit attempts, compared with 1.0 attempt for those aged 55 or older.

Advice from health professionals

Three-quarters (76%) of current smokers had seen a doctor in the previous year.  Half (50%) of this group reported that a doctor had advised them to reduce or quit smoking. Younger smokers were less likely to report that they had been advised by a doctor to quit or reduce smoking.

Among those who had been advised to reduce or quit smoking, just over half (53%) reported that they had been provided with information on cessation aids.

Use of pharmaceutical aids

Of smokers who had tried to quit, 48% had used at least one pharmaceutical aid.  One-third (33%) used the nicotine patch, while 22% used nicotine gum, and 13% used other pharmaceutical-based cessation aids.

The three most common reasons for not using pharmaceutical aids were doubt that the products work, cost, and concern about possible side effects.

Higher proportions of women than men expressed concern about side effects.

The most common strategy used by current smokers who had tried to quit in the past year was to reduce consumption.  About 71% of respondents who had tried to quit reported using this strategy.

Among current smokers who had tried to quit in the past year, the most common reasons for relapsing were stress or the need to relax (34%) and addiction or habit (25%).