Smokers aged 65 and over have been identified as a priority group for smoking-cessation interventions. However, despite confirmation of the benefits of cessation in later life and compelling evidence that interventions can be effective, studies have shown that members of the primary care team often fail to target this population. If these professionals are to be encouraged to broach the subject of smoking cessation with older people, it is important that barriers to the effective provision of interventions are uncovered. This article reports findings from a qualitative study that sought to do this by exploring the knowledge, attitudes and practice of members of the primary care team in relation to smoking/smoking cessation in later life. A purposive sample of health visitors, district nurses, practice nurses and general practitioners (n 41) working in the west of Scotland was recruited. Data were collected during face-to-face interviews using a semi-structured interview schedule. The interviews were transcribed and then analysed using content analysis procedures. While the participants were generally convinced of the benefits of cessation many believed that few older people manage to stop smoking successfully. A pessimistic view of the success rate of older smokers appeared to negatively influence practice. In addition, a number of the participants lacked confidence in their own counselling skills and/or had limited awareness of smoking cessation resources and specialist services. These factors also appeared to preclude the provision of effective smokingcessation interventions. Finally, there was little awareness of the content of the UK Smoking Cessation Guidelines. The findings from this study, and a parallel study that explored the health beliefs of older smokers, have been used to develop smoking cessation training designed specifically for members of the primary care team who have contact with older people who smoke. The efficacy of the training is currently being evaluated.
- primary care
- smoking cessation