Public Attitudes Toward the Treatment of Nicotine Addiction

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Abstract

Introduction:

The increasing use of medications for smoking cessation has concerned some commentators, who believe that emphasizing medications for smoking cessation may lead to a belief that there are “magic bullets” for nicotine dependence, or alternatively that unassisted quitting is very difficult, thereby discouraging such quit attempts. There is little evidence on which to test these speculations. This article aims to address this gap by examining public understandings of nicotine addiction in order to assess the extent to which medical explanations of smoking have permeated public beliefs about treatments for smoking cessation.

Methods:

Interviews were conducted with a representative sample of 55 members of the Australian public that included smokers, ex-smokers, and nonsmokers. The data were analyzed using a standard content analytic method to identify recurrent themes.

Results:

The results revealed that although pharmacological cessation aids were the most commonly mentioned method for quitting, they were often recommended alongside methods such as behavioral strategies or counseling. Unassisted quitting was mentioned frequently, but there were mixed views on its effectiveness. Seeing a doctor was rarely recommended. Two common themes were that smokers had to “really want to quit,” and that the best treatment method would depend on the individual.

Conclusions:

Medical discourse of smoking cessation does not dominate public understandings of smoking cessation. Rather, ideas about individual choice, motivation, and willpower are emphasized.

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