A recent study suggests that a positive social circle, exposure to mass media, and community involvement may improve a smoking cessation program and encourage smokers to quit
Many countries have developed anti-smoking policies in an attempt to lower the smoking rate. Some approaches include increasing the price of cigarettes,increasing health awareness and local government initiatives (i.e. community level smoke-free laws). Despite these endeavours, Asian countries still report a high smoking rate.
In order to successfully quit smoking, a smoker must think about it, prepare for it, stop smoking and maintain the new behaviour. As most smokers are aware, this process is susceptible to relapse and is not as straight forward as it seems. It has been suggested that the intention to quit smoking is a predictor of whether the smoker’s attempt will be successful.
In a recent Korean study,313 male smokers were given a self report questionnaire where they were asked to rate themselves on their intention to stop smoking in 30 days, 90 days, 6 months, 12 months or conversely had no intention of quitting in the next year. Participants’ socioeconomic statuses were also determined by asking them to indicate their highest level of education and total annual income. Mass media usage was assessed by asking participants about their habits regarding watching television, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, searching for information on their smart phone and reading news on the Internet.
According to the study, smokers were more likely to be middle aged (26% were in their 40s) than elderly (11% were 60 years and older). A majority (68%) had college or post-graduate degrees and 35% earned between 20,000-40,000 USD per year. The smart phone and television were the most frequently used sources of information among smokers.
Smokers who intended to quit had a high education level and read the newspaper compared to those that had no intention. According to the results, the profile of a smoker who intended to quit was as follows: He is an older man at least 60 years old (twice as likely to intend to quit) who is active in the community (2.5 times more likely to have the intention to quit), he has a large social network (2.4 times more likely to intend to quit) and uses mass media (especially asmart phone).Male smokers who used a smartphone were twice as likely to think about quitting.
This study illustrates the importance of a supportive socio-contextual environment with respect to any behavioural modification program. Factorswhich influence the success of a smoking cessation program are access to health information through digital devices and a positive social network/community supports.
Social relationships have a huge impact on substance abuse as smokers tend to form social relationships with other smokers. The opposite holds true as well; surround oneself with friends and acquaintances that have stopped smoking and one is more likely to quit. Moreover, quitting has a ripple effect within a social group particularly if that group is tight. The study suggests that a smart phone may be used to change social relationships in addition to being a source of health information.
There is also evidence that smoking is related to socioeconomic factors such as low income. It is harder for a smoker to quit if they are within a low income bracket but his attitudes towards health issues can be shaped through exposure to mass media. Lastly, community based supports may also encourage smokers to quit through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
A social circle consisting of non-smokers, increasing health awareness through the use of a smart phone and being active in the community may increase the success of a smoking cessation program.
Written By: Aurelie Hartawidjojo, BSc, BScPT