Smoking prevalence in England continues to reduce but further reduction is increasingly difficult. Cessation policy has successfully targeted those who want to quit but further reduction will need to shift attention to more difficult 'core smoker' populations. Following the established 'stages of change' perspective, this paper considers the characteristics of people who do not intend to quit smoking, anticipate difficulties in quitting and have not received advice about quitting. We deploy multilevel models of data drawn from the Health Survey for England years 2002-2004, and the NHS Primary Care Trust Patient Surveys for 2004 and 2005. It was found that variations in intentionality and anticipated ease of quitting are associated with individual factors such as smoking intensity, parental smoking, age/length of time as a smoker and the nature of the advice-giving consultation. Household composition and household income are also implicated in the intention to quit and anticipated difficulties in quitting. Once individual and household factors are taken into account the only identifiable area-level variation is reduced intentionality towards quitting in rural areas. We conclude by arguing that further gains in smoking cessation must focus on understanding the characteristics of 'hard-to-engage' populations.