Objective: To examine the impact of the social denormalization of smoking on smokers' motives for quitting and on subsequent abstinence in a context of intensified anti-smoking measures.
Study design: This study is based on data from 13,746 French smokers who were registered in cessation services nationwide between September 2006 and September 2007.
Methods: Motives freely reported by smokers on their first visit to a cessation service were explored through open coding. Bivariate methods and multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to assess the association with biochemically validated abstinence at 1 month follow-up.
Results: Motives most frequently expressed by smokers were health concerns (55.0%) and cost of smoking (24.2%), but no significant association was found with abstinence. The highest abstinence rates were achieved by smokers motivated by their social network: 'motivated or pressured by others' (20.9%), 'setting a good example' (20.7%) and 'having a smoke-free social network' (20.3%). Smokers could no longer bear the social constraints of smoking: '[my] friends and family have all quit, [I] smoke outside all alone and feel left out' and 'I no longer want people to say with disgust that I smell of tobacco. I would like to be freed from this addiction because I'm ashamed of smoking, not at home but on the street'.
Conclusion: French smokers' motives for quitting reflect a social unacceptability of smoking which has been buttressed by measures intended to reduce tobacco use. Through smoke-free social networks, the denormalization of smoking appears to improve short-term abstinence.
2010 The Royal Society for Public Health. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.