The association between the nature of the goal committed to and quitting smoking

Health Educ Res. 2017 Dec 1;32(6):546-554. doi: 10.1093/her/cyx066.


Commitments to goals are theorized to affect behavior change outcomes, but competing theories argue for hard to achieve goals and strategic sub-goals as optimum strategies for success. This study aimed to explore whether the nature of the goal affects smoking cessation outcomes. A total of 1043 participants in a randomized controlled trial of variations to an automated computer generated cessation advice program, who had made a quit attempt were asked at 1 month post quit about the initial goal they had set at the time of making the attempt. They were also followed up at 6 months post quit. Compared with those reporting 'seeing how it will go', those who reported the goal of 'taking it a cigarette at a time' were less likely to be quit at 1 month, while those with the most ambitious goal, to 'never smoke again', were more likely to be quit, and were more likely to maintain abstinence for 6 months. Indeed, 'taking it a cigarette at a time' was associated with greater short-term relapse. There is likely to be a benefit in encouraging smokers to set ambitious long-term goals rather than setting intermediate or non-specific goals.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Sex Factors
  • Smokers / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12612000613808