Existential multiplicity and the late-modern smoker: Negotiating multiple identities in a support group for smoking cessation

Anat Nachtigal, Carol A. Kidron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-467
Number of pages16
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.


  • Giddens
  • Identity work
  • Late modernity
  • Smoking cessation
  • Support group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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