Smoking after the age of 65 years: a qualitative exploration of older current and former smokers' views on smoking, stopping smoking, and smoking cessation resources and services

Health Soc Care Community. 2006 Nov;14(6):572-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2006.00659.x.


The aim of this study was to explore older current/former smokers' views on smoking, stopping smoking, and smoking cessation resources and services. Despite the fact that older smokers have been identified as a priority group, there is currently a dearth of age-related smoking cessation research to guide practice. The study adopted a qualitative approach and used the health belief model as a conceptual framework. Twenty current and former smokers aged>or=65 years were recruited through general practices and a forum for older adults in the West of Scotland. Data were collected using a semistructured interview schedule. The audio-taped interviews were transcribed and then analysed using content analysis procedures. Current smokers reported many positive associations with smoking, which often prevented a smoking cessation attempt. The majority were aware that smoking had damaged their health; however, some were not convinced of the association. A common view was that 'the damage was done', and therefore, there was little point in attempting to stop smoking. When suggesting a cessation attempt, while some health professionals provided good levels of support, others were reported as providing very little. Some of the participants reported that they had never been advised to stop smoking. Knowledge of local smoking cessation services was generally poor. Finally, concern was voiced regarding the perceived health risks of using nicotine replacement therapy. The main reasons why the former smokers had stopped smoking were health-related. Many had received little help and support from health professionals when attempting to stop smoking. Most of the former smokers believed that stopping smoking in later life had been beneficial to their health. In conclusion, members of the primary care team have a key role to play in encouraging older people to stop smoking. In order to function effectively, it is essential that they take account of older smokers' health beliefs and that issues, such as knowledge of smoking cessation resources, are addressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Counseling
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk-Taking
  • Scotland
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / economics
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires