The association of spousal smoking status with the ability to quit smoking: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 May 15;179(10):1182-7. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu041. Epub 2014 Apr 3.


Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Studies have shown that smoking status tends to be concordant within spouse pairs. This study aimed to estimate the association of spousal smoking status with quitting smoking in US adults. We analyzed data from 4,500 spouse pairs aged 45-64 years from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study cohort, sampled from 1986 to 1989 from 4 US communities and followed up every 3 years for a total of 9 years. Logistic regression with generalized estimating equations was used to calculate the odds ratio of quitting smoking given that one's spouse is a former smoker or a current smoker compared to a never smoker. Among men and women, being married to a current smoker decreased the odds of quitting smoking (for men, odds ratio (OR) = 0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.29, 0.46; for women, OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.43, 0.68). Among women only, being married to a former smoker increased the odds of quitting smoking (OR = 1.26, 95% CI: 1.04, 1.53). In conclusion, spouses of current smokers are less likely to quit, whereas women married to former smokers are more likely to quit. Smoking cessation programs and clinical advice should consider targeting couples rather than individuals.

Keywords: smoking; smoking cessation; spouses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data*