Despite a decrease in incidence, smoking remains the most serious public health problem worldwide. Identification of the factors contributing to changes in willingness to quit smoking may aid the development of strategies that encourage smoking cessation. Pooled cross-sectional data from 11,924 smokers from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey II-V were analyzed. The stages of change in smoking cessation were categorized as pre-contemplation, contemplation, and preparation. Baseline characteristics, socioeconomic factors, quality of life, psychological status, and smoking-related factors were compared between groups. The smokers were grouped as follows: 32.4% pre-contemplation, 54.4% contemplation, and 13.1% preparation. The proportion of smokers in the pre-contemplation group decreased (from 37.4% to 28.4%) from 2001 to 2012, while the proportion in the preparation group increased (from 6.4% to 18.1%). Compared with the preparation group, after adjusting for confounding factors, the pre-contemplation group was older [>65 years-old; odds ratio (OR) = 1.40], more often single (OR = 1.38), less educated (elementary school or lower; OR = 1.93), less physically active in terms of walking (OR = 1.38) or performing strengthening exercises (OR = 1.61), smoked more heavily (>20 cigarettes per day; OR = 4.75), and had a lower prevalence of chronic disease (OR = 0.76). Moreover, smokers who had never received education on smoking cessation were less willing to quit than those who had (OR = 0.44). In Korean smokers, the stages of change for smoking cessation were associated with age, education, marital status, chronic diseases, physical activity, and participation in smoking cessation programs.
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