Journal Article

Cultural context, older age and smoking in Scotland: qualitative interviews with older smokers with arterial disease

Odette Parry, Carolyn Thomson and Gerry Fowkes

in Health Promotion International

Volume 17, issue 4, pages 309-316
Published in print December 2002 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online December 2002 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:
Cultural context, older age and smoking in Scotland: qualitative interviews with older smokers with arterial disease

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This paper explores how smoking among older smokers with a smoking-related illness is influenced by the wider cultural context of smoking. The paper draws upon a Scottish qualitative interview study to explore lifecourse changes in smoking-related beliefs and behaviours, in current smokers between the ages of 65 and 84 years with arterial disease. The respondents’ understanding of smoking, as a socially acceptable behaviour of their youth, had undergone dramatic change over the course of their lives. While some respondents continued to associate their current smoking with their, albeit reduced, participation in social activities, others now smoked at home alone and associated smoking with increasing levels of isolation in their lives. Through an examination of how social attitudes may contribute to smoking as a solitary activity, the paper highlights the implications of cultural context for the adaptive strategies that older people use to cope with the circumstances and conditions of later life. The paper concludes that the wider cultural context of smoking is influential in shaping smoking as either an isolated ‘home’ activity, or as a ‘social’ activity for those whose opportunities to smoke in the private sphere are limited by disapproval of significant others. Within the social context, however, these ‘social’ smokers experience further constraints which shape and reduce their smoking behaviour. The data suggest that in order to be successful with this group of smokers, further research is needed to identify aspects of the lives of older people that sustain smoking in later life. These data will be necessary to develop appropriate health promotion measures to successfully target aspects of lives that support smoking in later life.

Keywords: older people; qualitative; smoking; social context

Journal Article.  5120 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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