Smoking cessation patterns, usefulness of quitting methods, and tobacco cessation motivators and barriers to quit in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Maria A. Lopez-Olivo, Kaleb Michaud, Rebecca Schumacher, Jennifer Minnix, Paul Cinciripini, Maria E. Suarez-Almazor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Tobacco use is highly discouraged in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) due to related short and long-term health implications. We aimed to evaluate smoking cessation patterns in patients with RA. In addition, we ascertained perceptions on the usefulness of quitting methods, and perceived motivators and barriers to quit. Methods: We surveyed adults with RA enrolled in the FORWARD Databank who self-identified as former or current tobacco users. Results: Three hundred forty-eight participants completed the survey and responded to the question “do you currently smoke” (former use = 319; current use = 29). Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) was perceived as extremely/somewhat useful by 31%, followed by individual 27% and group counseling 21%. Experiencing a major health event was the most common motivator to quit. Current users on average smoked 17 cigarettes per day. Six of the 29 current users had used electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days. The most frequent methods used to quit were “cold turkey quitting,” NRT, and prescription medicines. Only 8 of the 23 current users had plans to quit or expressed being ready to make changes to quit. Reasons most frequently listed to not quit were using smoking to manage negative emotions, as a pleasurable habit, to manage other addictions, and to provide a sense of control (e.g., to cope with RA). Conclusions: Current users expressed several negative emotions including coping with the disease and “being a pleasurable habit” when trying to quit. Future cessation programs should address these barriers to support patients with RA. Key Points• First study characterizing the smoking behavior of patients with RA in the USA. Current users were younger, had a shorter disease duration, and worse disease outcomes compared to former smokers.• Former and current users reported similar motivators to quit, with experiencing a major health event being most common. Only about a third of participants who quit or who were still smoking received advice from a health professional.• The most common reasons for not quitting were that smoking help to manage negative emotions and was a pleasurable habit. Future studies should focus on cessation programs that support participants with RA by addressing the unique perceptions about smoking in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2053-2068
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Rheumatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking cessation
  • Survey
  • Tobacco cessation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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