July 11, 2017
by Forest EU

‘Why do smokers smoke?’ – The views of confirmed smokers

Dr McKeganey is the author of “Why Don’t More Smokers Switch to Using E-Cigarettes: The Views of Confirmed Smokers”, a peer-reviewed study.

Brussels, Tuesday 11 July 2017 – For IMMEDIATE release


The smokers’ rights campaign group Forest EU is hosting Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research, at an event in Brussels tonight to discuss why smokers smoke.

Dr McKeganey is the author of “Why Don’t More Smokers Switch to Using E-Cigarettes: The Views of Confirmed Smokers“, a peer-reviewed study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It follows a report commissioned by Forest, entitled “The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers“.

This survey of over 600 smokers by the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow found that nearly all respondents (95%) gave pleasure as their primary reason for smoking, with 35% suggesting that smoking was part of their identity.

Well over half (62%) liked the physical effect of nicotine, 55% liked the way smoking provided “time for oneself”, 52% liked the taste or smell of tobacco, and 49% liked the ritual involved in smoking.

Although a majority (56%) felt that they were addicted to smoking, many described the habit as a personal choice rather than behaviour determined by their dependence on nicotine.

Asked what they liked least about smoking, 73% cited the financial cost while 54% objected to the stigma that is now directed towards smokers. 

Asked what might prompt them to stop smoking in future, the most common reasons were becoming seriously unwell as a result of smoking or exacerbating an illness through smoking.

Anti-smoking policies such as smoking bans and plain packaging were not cited by any respondents as reasons to quit smoking.

More than half the respondents (59%) had used alternative nicotine delivery products such as e-cigarettes. Few however were persuaded to switch permanently from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

The most common criticism of vaping was that it was “not the same” as smoking. Respondents commented that they missed the “smoke” and the “aroma” of combusted tobacco when they vaped. Some said they felt vaping was a “colder”, less social and more individualistic activity.

The most positive aspect of vaping cited by respondents was the fact that e-cigarettes could be used in places where smoking was prohibited.

Dr Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for Substance Use Research, said:

“This research has provided considerable detailed information on the way in which smoking is viewed by a group of confirmed smokers, a body whose opinions are rarely articulated or taken into account by government or tobacco control groups.

“The implications of these findings from a smoking cessation perspective are significant because there is a clear gulf between the way smoking is typically viewed as a negative, somewhat reprehensible, behaviour and how the smokers themselves saw smoking as a source of pleasure, a choice rather than an addiction.

“It suggests that the success of initiatives to encourage confirmed smokers to move away entirely from combustible tobacco products will depend to a large extent on the degree to which the alternative harm reduction products approximate the smoking experience in terms of enjoyment.”

Guillaume Périgois, director of the smokers’ group Forest EU which organises the event, said:

“The health risks of smoking are very well known yet many people choose to smoke because they enjoy it, not because they are addicted. The EU and national governments must respect that choice and stop bullying smokers to quit.

“What this research tells us is that confirmed smokers are unlikely to stop until there are alternative products that offer the same level of enjoyment as traditional cigarettes. That’s what politicians should focus on and support. Instead governments are introducing plain packaging and other measures that wilfully ignore the reasons many people smoke.

“This has to stop: Adult smokers should be allowed to make the informed choice to consume a legal product without excessive regulations and oppressive taxation.”


Interview opportunity:

Dr Neil McKeganey is available for interviews today Tuesday 11 July in Brussels at 5pm. For more information, please contact us at +32 4 78 98 07 43.


Note for editors:

1) For more information, please contact Guillaume Périgois on +32 4 78 98 07 43 or at gp@forestonline.eu

2) Forest EU is an advocacy campaign informing smokers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engaging with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account within the EU’s decision-making process. Forest EU is supported by Japan Tobacco International (JTI). Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking and represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. For more information, visit http://forestonline.eu/.