Background: At this time, the mechanisms by which socioeconomic differences in smoking develop are not completely understood. In this paper the Theory of Planned Behaviour as a potential explanatory framework for socioeconomic differences in smoking is tested. It was hypothesized that components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour may be unequally distributed over educational groups and therefore contribute to the explanation of socioeconomic differences in smoking. Educational differences in the intention to quit smoking are described and attempts are made to understand these in the light of educational patterns in attitude towards smoking cessation, perceived subjective norm concerning quitting smoking, and self-efficacy.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was part of the longitudinal GLOBE study on socioeconomic differences in The Netherlands. Components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour were measured in 1997 among 602 Dutch daily smokers.
Results: No educational differences in the intention to quit smoking were found. Persons with a more positive attitude towards smoking cessation and a high subjective norm significantly more often intended to quit smoking. But, positive attitude and high subjective norm were not related to education, which explains the lack of educational differences in intention to quit smoking. Higher educated respondents reported significantly higher self-efficacy to refrain from smoking, which, however, was not related to the intention to quit smoking.
Conclusion: It is anticipated that, from all components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour, only the direct effect of self-efficacy on behaviour may contribute to educational differences in smoking cessation.