Self-perceived smoking motives and their correlates in a general population sample

Nicotine Tob Res. 2009 Oct;11(10):1182-8. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntp120. Epub 2009 Jul 28.


Introduction: Understanding motivation to continue smoking may help the development of smoking cessation interventions. However, little information exists on the prevalence of specific motives for smoking in representative samples of smokers. This study examined smokers' reports of their motives for continued smoking in an English general population sample.

Methods: A total of 2,133 smokers participating in monthly cross-sectional surveys (the Smoking Toolkit Study) identified which, if any, of the following motives they believed were important in keeping them smoking: enjoyment, stress relief, weight control, boredom relief, aid to concentration, aid to socializing, pain relief, liking being a smoker, and feeling bad when not smoking. Associations between these motives and gender, age, social grade, Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence, and quit attempts in the last year were examined using logistic regression.

Results: Enjoyment and stress relief were the most commonly reported motives (51% and 47%, respectively). Women reported stress relief and weight control more often than men, whereas men were more likely to report enjoyment and liking being a smoker. Older smokers reported enjoying smoking and liking being a smoker more than younger smokers but were less likely to report socializing and stress relief as important motives. Not having made a quit attempt in the last year was associated with enjoying smoking and liking being a smoker. Higher dependence was associated with a greater number of reported motives.

Discussion: While smoking for stress relief is common, perceptions of enjoyment of smoking and positive smoker identity may be the key motives that inhibit attempts at cessation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Young Adult