In 20 years’ time, there will be nearly 1.6 billion smokers around the world. Approximately 70% of smokers want to quit.
This figure of 70% is used repeatedly to justify every and any antismoking intervention. Because it is always claimed that the interventions are aimed at “helping” smokers do what they want to do anyway.
But I’m always rather puzzled at the assertion that 70% of smokers want to quit. In my experience, it’s more like 70% don’t want to quit. In fact, it might even be 95%+ who don’t want to quit. Because those smokers who wanted to quit would have done so a long time ago.
And therein may lie the explanation. In Britain in 1950, something like 80% of adult males smoked. And 60 years later, in 2010, only about 20% of adult males smoke. Assuming a fixed British male population P, the number of smokers in 1950 was 0.8P. And the number of smokers in 2010 was 0.2P. And the ratio of 2010 smokers to 1950 smokers is 0.2P/0.8P, or 0.25 or 25%.
That means that 75% of smokers have given up smoking over the past 60 years. And furthermore, it’s reasonable to say that they gave up smoking because they wanted to. Because up until about 2007, smokers weren’t being forced to stop smoking by draconian legislation.
And this is probably where the curiously persistent 70% figure comes from: it comes from the historical fact that around 70% of adult male British smokers have stopped smoking over the past 60 years. If it differs from my suggested 75%, it’s because slightly different assumptions were made.
But even if it’s historically quite true that 70% of smokers stopped smoking, and did so because they wanted to, that doesn’t mean that 70% of the remaining current smokers also want to stop smoking. If anything, it is more likely that hardly any of them want to stop. Because all those who wanted to stop have already done so.
But I can always ask my smoking readers about their present wishes in this respect:
Maybe they’ll surprise me, and 70% of them will reply that they really do want to stop smoking?