Unplanned attempts to quit smoking: missed opportunities for health promotion?

Addiction. 2009 Nov;104(11):1901-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02647.x. Epub 2009 Aug 4.


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.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Decision Making*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • United Kingdom