Can Smoking Cessation Internet Sites Help You Quit?

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Many smokers use the internet to seek help in stopping smoking. Thousands of websites (including this one) provide basic information and advice on stopping smoking, and over 30 focus on providing direct smoking cessation assistance (e.g. a tailored quit plan) rather than just information and advice. So do these smoking cessation websites actually help smokers to quit?

When one considers some of the advantages of the internet (easy access, anonymity, lack of face-to-face contact etc), one can immediately also see some of the challenges in evaluating smoking cessation websites. For example, how do you follow-up on people who visited a website anonymously, in order to find out if they quit smoking? Research on this topic has only recently started, but there are already some promising studies suggesting that some smoking cessation websites boost the smokers’ chances of quitting. A recent study by Dr Lynn Swartz at the Oregon Center for Applied Science compared one particular internet site with no intervention. They found that smokers given access to the smoking cessation internet site were roughly twice as likely to have quit smoking three months later. Another recent study by Dr Joanne Pike at University of Texas Health Science Center compared utilization and quit rates at 5 interactive websites and one static website, all of which aimed to help smokers quit. They found that some of the interactive websites had much higher participation rates than others, and that this was associated with the amount of interactivity available on the site. Sites containing a lot of interactive functions also tended to have more participants succeed in quitting smoking.

Many of the websites offer the chance to view some of the basic information pages immediately but require visitors to complete an online registration process (and possibly pay a fee) before being given full access to the more useful interactive features on the site. One of the top smoking cessation websites can be found at: www.quitnet.com . This site offers a range of interactive features including “chat rooms”, and “ask-the-expert” functions, as well as online “wizards” that automatically calculate how much money you have saved since you quit smoking. This site is widely used around the world, so that at any given moment there will be hundreds or thousands of people visiting the site for help to quit.

The advantages of these interactive smoking cessation websites are that they are available 24/7, from the comfort of your own home, are generally free or low cost, and can put you in touch with a whole community of people going through the same process. Website assistance can also be used in addition to other methods (e.g. counseling and/or medication). Generally the more help and support you can get, the more likely you are to succeed in quitting. If you found any websites particularly helpful (or unhelpful), let me know, so I can pass it on to others. Best of luck.
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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