Views and preferences of people living with HIV about smoking, quitting and use of nicotine products

Int J Drug Policy. 2021 Jul 9;97:103349. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103349. Online ahead of print.


Aims and background: People living with HIV (PLHIV) have a higher rate of smoking and experience a greater burden of tobacco-related disease than the general population. This study aimed to understand the role smoking plays in the lives of PLHIV, participants' views of traditionally available nicotine products (e.g., nicotine replacement therapy or NRT) and novel nicotine products (e.g., nicotine vaping products or NVPs) as both short-term quit aids and long-term substitutes for cigarettes.

Methods: Semi-structured focus groups were conducted with PLHIV who smoked. Focus groups were transcribed and analysed using a combination of deductive and inductive thematic analysis. A brief questionnaire of nicotine product use and interest was also completed and the quantitative data presented using descriptive statistics.

Results: Fifty-four participants took part in 11 focus groups. Participants' views of smoking, quitting and nicotine products were diverse. Commitment to smoking and interest in quitting were categorised into three groups across a smoking-quitting continuum: committed to smoking, ambivalent about smoking and reluctantly smoking. NRT was criticised for a range of side effects and primarily considered as a short-term cessation aid. NVPs generated debate. NVPs that closely resembled cigarettes were viewed as the most acceptable product and were considered to be more suitable than NRT for long-term use.

Discussion and conclusions: Understanding the unique needs, goals and views of PLHIV related to smoking, quitting smoking and using nicotine products could inform development of novel and tailored smoking interventions for PLHIV. NVPs should be further examined as potential long-term substitutes for PLHIV who are ambivalent about smoking. However, traditional smoking cessation assistance (approved cessation aids and counselling) is likely to be most appropriate for PLHIV who are reluctantly smoking.

Keywords: HIV; Nicotine products; Qualitative; Smoking; Tobacco harm reduction.