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Motivations to quit smoking cigarettes vary by frequency of smoking, past quit attempts, and discounting among sample of Canadian young adults

Previous research suggests motivations to quit smoking vary across age groups. A new study examined the importance of reasons to quit in young adult smokers. In addition, this study also examined whether smokers who discounted the importance of long-term health risks associated with smoking (‘discounters’) differed from those who acknowledged these risks. Participants (N = 1,294) were part of the Nicotine Dependence in Teens (NDIT) Study, for which they were recruited during seventh grade in 1999-2000 from 10 high schools in Canada. Data for the current study were collected via self-report questionnaires administered six years after participants graduated from high school. A modified version of the Adolescent Reasons for Quitting Smoking Scale (ARFQ) was used to assess participants’ concerns about the short-term consequences of smoking, social disapproval of smoking, and long-term concerns about smoking. Scores for each of these three subscales were calculated for each participant. Responses to 15 individual items, including past-month daily smoking, age at smoking initiation, previous quit attempts, cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and other tobacco use behaviors were also collected. Participants were categorized as discounters or non-discounters based on their levels of agreement with a statement about the importance of long-term health concerns related to tobacco use. The authors analyzed the three ARFQ subscale scores using Mann-Whitney U-tests and Kruskal-Wallis tests from the 311 participants who reported they were current smokers. Half (51.4%) of these individuals reported being daily smokers who consumed 12.3 cigarettes per day, on average, and 36.5% of smokers reported a past-year quit attempt. Results showed this group ranked long-term concerns as the most important reason to quit and social disapproval as the least important. Rankings on ARFQ subscales did not differ by sex or education and the rankings on individual items did not differ by sex. Daily smokers (Mdn (IQR) = 3.0 (2.0–3.0)) rated the importance of long-term concerns as more important than did nondaily smokers (2.5 (1.5–3.0)). Smokers who attempted to quit in the past year rated long-term concerns as more important than smokers who did not attempt to quit (3.0 (2.5–3.0) vs. 2.5 (1.5–3.0), respectively), as did smokers to expressed strong motivation to quit. The authors classified 45 smokers (14.5% of participants) as discounters and the remaining 266 smokers as non-discounters. Discounters smoked less frequently and in smaller quantities and were less likely to report a quit attempt, report difficulty quitting, or express strong motivation to quit compared to non-discounters. The authors recommended using this insight to tailor quit interventions by smoker characteristics.

Take away: Over 70% of current cigarette smokers in this study rated long-term concerns (i.e., health risks) about smoking as being very important. 15% of participants did not acknowledge long-term consequences of smoking and were classified as discounters. This group tended to smoke less frequently and consume fewer cigarettes per day than non-discounters.

Citation: Wellman RJ, O’Loughlin EK, Dugas EN, et al. (2017). Reasons for quitting smoking in young adult cigarette smokers [published online ahead of print September 20 2017], Addictive Behaviors doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.09.010

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