â€œHardcoreâ€ elderly smokers refuse to quit
Many elderly smokers are hardcore addicts who have no intention of giving up, according to a new study.
Cancer Research UK scientists found that the proportion of hardcore smokers greatly increased with age. Nearly a third of smokers over the age of 65 were categorised as hardcore smokers, compared with only 5 per cent of those aged 16-24.
The increase with age may reflect a false sense of security after years of smoking with few perceived negative health effects, the researchers say.
The study found that a third of hardcore smokers thought their health was completely unaffected by smoking, and would remain so in the future. Smoking was cited as the main pleasure in life by 31 per cent of those questioned â€“ an attitude similar to that of the character Dot Cotton in the soap opera EastEnders, leading the scientists to coin this type of attitude â€œDot Cotton syndromeâ€.
Researcher Professor Martin Jarvis said, â€œAs smokers get older more of them develop entrenched attitudes. Some just give up hoping they can ever succeed in quitting, and some are lulled into a false sense of security simply by having survived so far. The reality is that by quitting cigarettes they can add years to their life.â€
Despite the health benefits of quitting, the study found that hardcore smokers actively defy pressure to quit â€“ 56 per cent resent social pressure to give up and 40 per cent do not think their smoking influences children.
However, public health messages can help, Professor Jarvis says. â€œIn California smoking is less socially acceptable. An intensive anti-smoking campaign has run for a decade â€“ a statewide public smoking ban, TV campaigns, and targeted health messages have all helped people understand the health risks of smoking in a clear and vivid way.
â€œThis has resulted in less smokers but also a lower proportion of hardcore smokers â€“ many are in the process of trying to give up.â€