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Cost increasingly important motive for quitting smoking

Cost increasingly important motive for quitting smoking

One in four people in England cite cost as the main reason for giving up smoking, a new study funded by Cancer Research UK has revealed.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) found that health concerns were still a primary motive for over half of the people who want to stop smoking in England, but since 2020, the expense of the habit has become a motivating factor for a significant number of people. Social factors and advice from health care professionals are cited as smaller motivating factors.

Since cost is an increasingly important motivator for quitting smoking, the researchers suggest that communicating the savings smokers can make when they stop smoking could be an effective way to get more people to quit.

In the study, published in the journal BMJ Public Health, the researchers looked at survey responses from 101,919 people over 18 years of age. The participants made up a nationally representative monthly cross-sectional survey of England between 2018 and 2023. The study period covered a global pandemic, a national cost-of-living crisis, and a healthcare crisis, and the researchers examined whether the factors motivating people to give up smoking changed during these periods of upheaval occurring since 2020.

Of the 101,919 respondents, 17,812 reported smoking in the last year, and 5,777 of the past-year smokers had made at least one serious attempt to quit in the previous year. All participants reported the factors contributing to their most recent effort to stop. Statistical analysis was applied to the data to calculate prevalence ratios across motivating factors such as health concerns, cost, social factors and health professional advice.

The findings show that health concerns were the most frequently cited motive, reported by over half of the participants (52 per cent) across the entire period. Of these, more than one in three (35.5 per cent) were motivated by concerns about future health, whereas one in five (19 per cent) were motivated by current health problems.

After health concerns, cost was the next most frequently cited motivation for quitting, reported by nearly one in four participants (23 per cent). Cost, as a motivating factor, increased significantly over the study period, rising from 19.1 per cent in March 2018 to 25.4 per cent in May 2023.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson of the UCL Tobacco & Alcohol Research Group said: ‘The harmful effects of smoking on health have always been a strong motivator for people wanting to stop smoking. Our data show that cost is another increasingly important influence on people’s quit attempts. This is not surprising, given the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have put considerable pressure on household budgets over the last few years.’

She added: ‘The average smoker spends around £20 a week on cigarettes, so quitting smoking offers considerable potential to reduce their outgoings – even if they switch to other nicotine products like e-cigarettes, which are not only less harmful but more affordable.’

The researchers hope the new evidence of changing motivations can be implemented in smoking cessation interventions and clinical practices.


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