To examine identity work of smokers attempting to quit, we undertook participant observation at an Israeli cessation support group. Grounded theory and thematic analysis of group dialogue permitted identification of recurring themes and the presentation of illustrative vignettes. We found that, rather than the linear, goal-oriented constitution of a univocal non-smoking identity, identity work entailed re-appraisals of the experience of liminality between smoking and non-smoking selves. Although the group participants reduced their tobacco consumption and some even quit, specific technologies of self sustained the smoking self alongside the non-smoking self. We propose that the social contextualisation of the smoker in the context of late modernity may explain the tolerance of chronic ambivalence and the constitution of a 'resistant' smoking- non-smoking self. Phenomenological accounts of the experience of this hybrid self may more fully explain protracted or failed cessation and further deconstruct binary readings of indulgence or control, addiction or abstinence and illness or wellness. Our findings call for the re-conceptualisation of the experience and outcome of protracted cessation and a tolerant policy-driven intervention.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.
- Identity work
- Late modernity
- Smoking cessation
- Support group
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health