UK National Smoking Cessation Conference - UKNSCC
2009 UK National Smoking Cessation Conference - London more...

Circumstances surrounding first lapse in relapsed smokers and residual attraction to smoking in long-term quitters
Eleni Vangeli, Research Health Psychologist, Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, London, UK


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Wee Lei Hum and Eleni Vangeli

Aim: To develop our understanding of:

1. the situation preceding ‘late’ smoking relapse; and

2. the presence of residual attraction to smoking in long-term quitters.

Methods: 1,390 adults, initially abstinent four weeks after treatment support with an NHS stop-smoking service, were sent a postal questionnaire between six weeks and four years after treatment. Abstinence duration, behaviour and intentions of relapsed smokers immediately prior to first lapse were assessed. Ex-smokers were asked questions relating to residual attraction to smoking and ‘non-smoker’ identity. 40%(n=556) responded to the survey, of whom 64%(n=357) were abstinent at follow-up.

Findings: 49% of relapsers had only intended to smoke one or two cigarettes before stopping again and 46% had bought the first cigarette. An intention of temporary smoking, rather than a complete relapse, increased with abstinence duration (X2=7.899, df=1, p<0.01). Over a quarter of those abstinent for over two years still reported missing cigarettes (29%) or that they would go back to smoking if it was not harmful (28%). However, the majority (63%) of all ex-smokers identified themselves as ‘definitely a non-smoker’.

Discussion: A substantial proportion of quit attempts may fail with late relapse due to a perception that abstinence can be briefly suspended without high risk of relapse. Residual attraction to cigarettes may be common among long-term ex-smokers but this does not necessarily undermine their perception of themselves as non-smokers.


About the presenter
In 2004, Eleni joined the tobacco research team at UCL, working on a clinical trial (ZORN trial) comparing the efficacy of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and Buproprion (Zyban). Since 2006 Eleni has been investigating the social and psychological reasons for relapse back to smoking for her D (Psych) thesis in Health Psychology. She has also been analysing data from the Smoking Toolkit Study (a study involving monthly household surveys of national samples in England to obtain ongoing data for key performance indicators relating to smoking and cessation).


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