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Smoking cessation abstinence goal in treatment-seeking smokers



Baseline abstinence goal is a robust predictor of cigarette abstinence. However, important questions about goal remain unanswered. These include variables correlating with goal, changes in goal, relationship of goal and abstinence status over time, and predictors of change. The current study aimed to address these questions.


Participants were treatment-seeking volunteers in two clinical trials. In Clinical Trial 1 (N=402), participants smoked ≥10 cigarettes per day (CPD) and were ≥50years of age. In Clinical Trial 2 (N=406), participants smoked ≥10 CPD, smoked within 30min of arising, and were ≥18years of age. The outcome variables were biochemically verified 7-day abstinence from cigarettes at weeks 12, 24, 52, and 104. Abstinence goal, demographic, psychological, and smoking related variables were assessed via standard instruments.


At baseline, the greater the desire to quit and one's expectations of success, and the lesser the educational level, the more likely participants were to have a quit forever goal. Throughout the two-year study, abstinence from cigarettes and a lower educational level were correlated with a goal of quit forever; 37% of participants changed goal. There were no predictors of goal change. Abstinence goal was related to abstinence status across the study period. The goal predicted abstinence status at subsequent assessments, even when status was controlled.


Lesser educational levels were consistent predictors of a more stringent goal. Abstinence goal changes over time. These findings suggest that repeated counseling about goal is advisable and participants would benefit from such counseling, independent of demographic characteristics and smoking status.

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