Smokers' Expectancies for Abstinence: Preliminary Results From Focus Groups

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Abstract

Smokers' expectancies regarding the effects of cigarette use are powerful predictors of smoking motivation and behavior. However, studies have not investigated the consequences that smokers expect when they attempt to quit smoking: abstinence-related expectancies. The primary goal of this qualitative study was to gain initial insight into smokers' expectancies for abstinence. Eight focus groups were conducted with 30 smokers diverse with respect to age, gender, and ethnoracial background. Content analyses indicated that smokers anticipate a variety of outcomes from abstinence. The most frequently reported expectancies included pharmacologic withdrawal symptoms, behavioral withdrawal symptoms, decreased monetary expense, and immediate improvement of certain aspects of physical functioning and health. Additional expectancies concerned weight gain, improved attractiveness, enhanced social functioning/self-esteem, long-term health outcomes, and loss of relationships. Finally, a number of relatively unheralded expectancies were revealed. These involved nicotine replacement therapy effectiveness, alcohol and other drug use, cue reactivity, cessation-related social support, aversion to smoking, and “political process” implications. This study provides a preliminary step in understanding smokers' expectancies for abstinence from cigarettes.

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