Objectives: To investigate the occurrence, determinants and reported success of unplanned and planned attempts to quit smoking, and sources of support used in these attempts.
Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire survey of 3512 current and ex-smokers.
Setting: Twenty-four general practices in Nottinghamshire, UK.
Participants: Individuals who reported making a quit attempt within the last 6 months.
Measurements: Occurrence, triggers for, support used and success of planned and unplanned quit attempts.
Results: A total of 1805 (51.4%) participants returned completed questionnaires, reporting 394 quit attempts made within the previous 6 months of which 37% were unplanned. Males were significantly more likely to make an unplanned quit attempt [adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.60, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.04-2.46], but the occurrence of unplanned quit attempts did not differ significantly by socio-economic group or amount smoked. The most common triggers for unplanned quit attempts were advice from a general practitioner or health professional (27.9%) and health problems (24.5%). 5.4% and 4.1% of unplanned quit attempts used National Health Service cessation services on a one to one and group basis, respectively, and more than half (51.7%) were made without any support. Nevertheless, unplanned attempts were more likely to be reported to be successful (adjusted OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.23-3.27, P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Unplanned quit attempts are common among smokers in all socio-demographic groups, are triggered commonly by advice from a health professional and are more likely to succeed; however, the majority of these unplanned attempts are unsupported. It is important to develop methods of providing behavioural and/or pharmacological support for these attempts, and determine whether these increase cessation rates still further.