Influences motivating smokers in a radon-affected area to quit smoking

Chris J Groves-Kirkby, Karen Timson, George Shield, Anthony R Denman, Stephen Rogers, Jackie Campbell, Paul S Phillips, Merryn E Ekberg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Domestic radon gas concentrations in parts of the UK are sufficiently high to increase lung cancer risk among residents, and recent studies have confirmed that the risk of smokers developing lung cancer is significantly enhanced by the presence of radon. Despite campaigns encouraging residents of radon-affected areas (RAEs) to test and remediate their homes, public response to the risks posed by radon remains relatively modest, particularly among smokers and young families, limiting the health benefits and cost-effectiveness achievable by remediation. The observation that smokers, who are most at risk from radon, are not explicitly targeted by current radon remediation campaigns prompted an assessment of the value of smoking-cessation initiatives in reducing radon-induced lung cancers by reaching at-risk subgroups of the population hitherto uninfluenced by radon-awareness programmes. This study addresses the motivation of current quitters in a designated RAE using a postal questionnaire administered around one year after the cessation attempt.
Residents of the Northamptonshire RAE who had joined the smoking-cessation programme between July and September 2006 and who remained verifiably tobacco free at four weeks, were subsequently invited to participate in a questionnaire-based investigation into factors affecting their decision to cease smoking. From an initial population of 445 eligible individuals, 205 of those contacted by telephone after 12 months agreed to complete postal questionnaires, and unsolicited questionnaires were sent to a further 112 participants for whom telephone contact had proved impossible. One hundred and three completed questionnaires were returned and analysed, the principal tools being c2, Mann-Whitney and Kruskal-Wallis tests.
Individuals decide to quit smoking from self-interest, principally on health grounds, and regard the effects of their smoke on others, particularly children and unborn babies, as less significant. The risk of developing respiratory, coronary/cardiac or cancerous conditions provides the greatest motivation to the decision to quit, with knowledge of radon among the lowest-ranked influences.
This study confirms that quitters place risks to their personal health as the highest factors influencing their decision to quit, and health professionals should be aware of this when designing smoking-cessation initiatives. As radon risk is ranked very low by quitters, there would appear to be the potential to raise radon awareness through smoking-cessation programmes, with the objective of increasing the uptake and success rate of such programmes and encouraging participation in radon-remediation programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)44-56
Number of pages13
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date27 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Radon
  • carcinogen
  • environmental pollution
  • questionnaire-based study
  • smoking cessation


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