Smoking cessation: Self-initiated versus formal treatment

Helene Steinfeld, Fordham University


The present investigation is a prospective study designed to assess the effectiveness of self-initiated behavioral change in the modification of smoking behavior, and to determine if there are differences between individuals who choose a treatment program to quit smoking from those who quit unaided. In addition, factors contributing to early relapse are explored. Fifty-eight subjects were recruited: 31 self-quitters and 27 treatment-quitters. Social learning theory was used to describe the acquisition and modification of smoking. Personal and environmental factors which influence smoking cessation were identified. These variables include physical dependence, negative-affect smoking, nicotine intake, smoking environment, reasons for quitting and for smoking, and self-efficacy. To assess these variables, subjects were asked to complete the following forms on quit-day: Tolerance Questionnaire, Confidence Questionnaire, Smoking Questionnaire, and Why Do You Smoke? Withdrawal symptoms were monitored during the first 2 weeks after quitting, and smoking behavior was monitored for 12 weeks. A telephone interview was administered at 6 and 12 weeks to obtain data on smoking urges and smoking incidents. Self-quitters and treatment-quitters did not differ significantly on any of the pre-treatment variables or on rate of success: 32.3% of 31 self-quitters and 48.1% of 27 treatment-quitters were successful maintainers at the 3-month follow-up period. Both groups used coping strategies to resist urges to smoke, and had similar emotional reactions to a smoking incident during the abstinent period. Number of withdrawal symptoms was found to have a negative correlation with smoking incidents during the second week of the maintenance period, while intensity of symptoms had a positive correlation. Urges to smoke occurred mainly when subjects were with other people, in an unpleasant mood, either at home or at social events. Main triggers of smoking urges were: seeing other smokers, substance cues, and negative emotions. Based on the present investigation, it is recommended that research focus on successful change whether self-initiated or formal treatment, use interviews to explore the circumstances surrounding smoking incidents for a better understanding of the smoking cessation process, and investigate the cause and effect relationship between withdrawal symptoms and smoking incidents.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Steinfeld, Helene, "Smoking cessation: Self-initiated versus formal treatment" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8813587.