Smoker identity and its potential role in young adults' smoking behavior: A meta-ethnography

  • Tombor I
  • Shahab L
  • Herbec A
 et al. 
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Objective: Identity is an important influence on behavior. To identify potential targets for smoking cessation interventions in young adults, we synthesized findings from qualitative studies on smoker identity and potential influences on smoking and smoking cessation. Methods: A systematic search of 4 electronic databases up to September 19, 2013, was conducted to identify qualitative studies on smoker identity in smokers and ex-smokers aged 16–34. Key concepts were extracted from individual studies and synthesized into higher-order interpretations by following the principles of meta-ethnography. Results: Seventeen relevant papers were identified. At the highest level of interpretation, we identified 4 types of findings: (a) contributory factors to identity, (b) identity in relation to smoking, (c) contextual and temporal patterning, and (d) behavior in relation to smoking. Contributory factors included the desire to establish aspirational individual and social identities, enact a smoker identity appropriate to the momentary social context, and alter personal nonsmoking rules when consuming alcohol. Smoker identity was multifaceted and incorporated individuals’ defensive rationalizations, and both positive and negative feelings attached to it. Smoker identities took time to develop, were subject to change, and were context dependent. Identity was found to play a role in quit attempts. Conclusions: Qualitative research into the identity of young adult smokers has established it as a multifaceted phenomenon serving important functions but also involving conflict and defensive rationalizations. It develops over time and contextual factors influence its expression. The nature of a smoker’s identity can play an important role in smoking cessation. Keywords:

Author-supplied keywords

  • Meta-ethnography
  • Smoker identity
  • Smoking cessation
  • Systematic review
  • Young adults

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