Characteristics of smokers' attitudes towards stopping: Survey of 10,295 smokers in representative samples from 17 European countries

P. Boyle, S. Gandini, C. Robertson, W. Zatonski, K. Fagerstrom, K. Slama, M. Kunze, N. Gray, I. Garas, A. Grivegnee, H. Hansen, A. Hirsch, B. Kiemeney, U. Kleeberg, C. La Vecchia, A. McNeill, G. Mahon, J. M. Martin-Moreno, P. Puska, R. WestD. G. Zaridze, J. P. Ryan, S. Balzano, C. Mazzetta, C. Cipolla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Tobacco is addictive and cigarette smoking causes significant morbidity among smokers due to the harmful side effects of tar and other constituents. Many diseases caused by tobacco smoking result in death, of which half are premature. When smokers stop smoking, even in middle age, there is a substantial improvement in life expectancy. Stopping smoking is not always so easy: the addictive nature of nicotine makes it a lot easier to start smoking than to stop permanently. Currently, 40% of men and 30% of women in the European Union smoke, although there is little information about how many of these want to stop smoking and what their attitudes to stopping are. Methods: Representative samples of smokers were interviewed in the fifteen Member States of the European Union as well as Poland and Russia, employing individual, face-to-face interviews. The national characteristics in key variables, such as age, gender, socio-economic status and urban-rural status, were included in the study design in all countries. The sample comprised a representative sample of smokers, aged 18 or more, in each country. A combined total of 10,295 smokers were interviewed. Results: Overall, the majority of smokers want to stop smoking. This percentage varies greatly between countries, with 84% in Sweden stating that they wished to stop compared with less than 40% in Austria, Germany and Italy. Smokers want to be told by their doctor that they should stop smoking. However, only 34% of smokers have been told by their doctor to stop smoking and only 11.6% have been counselled by their doctor about the possible assistance available to help them stop successfully. The similarity of the findings in men and women is notable. Conclusion: For the first time, data are available from representative samples of European Smokers to give a picture of smokers and some of their attitudes and patterns of behaviour. These findings reinforce the conclusion that there should be a wide range of activities utilised to achieve Tobacco Control. Everything that can be done to prevent children and adolescents starting to smoke must be identified and implemented. Doctors should routinely advise their patients who smoke that they should stop smoking and inform them of what help is available to do so. The proportion of adult smokers who wish to stop needs to be further increased and all the help necessary to improve the probability that an attempt to stop smoking is successful should be made available to those who wish to stop smoking. Smokers should be considered as patients with an addictive disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-14
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Public Health
Issue number3 SUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Addiction
  • Europe
  • Smoking
  • Survey
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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