Objectives: Some smokers may never quit. Depending on how many of these "hard-core" smokers exist, tobacco control efforts could reach the limits of a minimum achievable smoking prevalence. We defined the hard core as heavy smokers with weak quitting histories who expect never to quit smoking. We compared them with other smokers and analyzed whether they represent a meaningful barrier to further reducing smoking prevalence.
Methods: We used data from the 1996 California Tobacco Surveys (18616 adults; response rate = 72.9%).
Results: In 1996, 5.2% of California smokers 26 years and older (1.3% of the California population) were hard-core smokers. Compared with other smokers, hard-core smokers were more likely to be retired non-Hispanic White males, with 12 years or less of education and incomes below $30,000 a year, who live alone. They began smoking at younger ages and attributed fewer negative health consequences to smoking than other smokers.
Conclusions: Current tobacco control efforts have a long way to go before they "hit the wall." Nonetheless, the group of hard-core smokers represents a challenge because they appear to be largely unaffected by the messages of tobacco control.