Applying Behaviour Change Models to Smoking Cessation

Business challenge

Our client, CHRE (Centre for Health Research and Education) needed an in-depth understanding of ‘quit-smoking’ journey in the UK and the drivers and barriers to smoking cessation to help them shape the quit strategy, make stop-smoking support more effective, and secure additional investment in training.

What we did

We conducted focus groups and telephone interviews with a wide range of stakeholders to build a holistic view of the current smoking cessation offerings and the discrepancies between what can be done and what is being done.

These stakeholders included influencers such as healthcare professionals, retailers and stop-smoking advisors, as well as consumer groups such as current smokers, current vapers, ex-smokers, smokers with mental health issues, and women who smoked while pregnant.

We also conducted telephone interviews with more vulnerable consumer groups to ensure we were able to get full 360 degree feedback, as these are often the most entrenched smokers.


Our team drew insights from each consumer and influencer group individually using the scientifically-validated COM-B behaviour change model as a theoretical framework. This approach allowed us to uncover key instances of where capability, opportunity or motivation were inhibiting behaviour change for each stakeholder group.

While analyzing our data within this framework we were also able to identify the key psychological processes (heuristics) which either discouraged smokers from quitting (such as loss aversion or future discounting), or kept them smoking (such as optimism bias, confirmation bias and social norms). Together our suggested behaviour change techniques from the COM-B model, and our mapping of key heuristics at play, allowed us to advise CHRE on actionable strategies that could result in positive behavioural change. Our client developed several easy tools, aimed at clinicians and public health team members, which supported stopping smoking during the pandemic.

We presented our findings at the 2021 BHBIA Annual Conference and were delighted that our Stubbing Out Smoking in the UK paper won the Keith Munro Award for the Best Conference Paper.

Dr Sudhanshu Patwardhan, MBBS, MS, MBA, FRSPH, Director, Centre for Health Research and Education said:

I was impressed by Impact’s application of behavioural change models that not only provided me with detailed explanations of the psychological processes that drive a desired change in behaviour, but also the actions required to drive this change. Impact are a competent and responsive agency with a passion for behavioural science.