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New Research Says Better Social Skills Not Nicotine Patches Helps Smokers Quit

Originally published 6 May 2003

New research by psychologist Dr Stephen Joseph at the University of Warwick into why people smoke reveals that neurotic smokers and introverts find it hardest to kick the habit and says that carefully tailored treatment, including training to enhance social skills and counselling, could help smokers give up.

Although nicotine replacement therapy can support some people trying to quit smoking, the fact that some smokers use cigarettes to help them deal with social situations or to help themselves feel better implies that counselling and psychotherapy would be more appropriate in certain cases.

Around one third of the UK population are smokers, and most of these would like to give up, but find it difficult. Dr Stephen Joseph's research paper “Personality, smoking motivation, and self-efficacy to quit” shows different personality types smoke for different reasons and outlines what techniques can help people quit.

The participants completed several tests that revealed introverts typically use cigarettes to feel less shy and enhance their social skills. Neurotic smokers, especially those who are depressed, use cigarettes to control negative feelings. Both personality types have low confidence in their ability to successfully give up.

The findings suggest interventions to help people stop should be tailored for depressed and introverted smokers. Helping introverts cope better with social situations through specific social skills training packages would make some smokers more confident of their ability to ditch the habit. The strong link between neuroticism and smoking to control negative feelings suggests learning to control negative feelings through counselling and other therapeutic interventions for depression may be useful for depressed people trying to quit smoking.

Dr Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, says: “People don’t often think about going to see a therapist to help them stop smoking, but sometimes that may well be the best approach. If we can help people manage their negative emotions in a different way, or help people deal with social situations more confidently, that would assist them to stop smoking.

Dr Stephen Joseph continued: "This research is of significance for health psychologists as it clarifies the relationship between personality factors, motivation to smoke and the ability to quit."

For more information contact:
Dr Stephen Joseph, University of Warwick, Mobile: 0786 780 0320, Tel: 02476 528 182 Jenny Murray, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574255, Mobile: 07876 217740

“Personality, smoking motivation, and self-efficacy to quit” was published in Personality and Individual Differences 34 (2003) 749-758