Background: Adults aged 50-74 years comprise more than 20% of the population and more than 22% of all smokers. Smoking is a risk factor for 7 of the 14 major causes of death for older adults, including cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. Moreover, older smokers can experience significant dramatic health benefits from quitting, including improvements in circulation and pulmonary function and declines in risks for heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
Methods: Smoking patterns, quitting motives, and barriers among older smokers were examined by comparing responses of older smokers (aged 50-74 years) and younger smokers (aged 21-49 years) who took part in the 1986 Adult Use of Tobacco Survey.
Results: Older and younger smokers differed little in current smoking patterns or in past quit attempts, motives, and methods. Survey results show that older smokers are far less likely to accept smoking health harms and more likely to view smoking as a beneficial coping and weight control tactic.
Conclusions: Motivational strategies should be tailored to the unique health beliefs and cultural history of older smokers.