Editorials

Smoking cessation strategies

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1732 (Published 23 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1732
  1. Simon Chapman, professor of public health1,
  2. Melanie Wakefield, director2
  1. 1School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Carlton, Vic, Australia
  1. simon.chapman{at}sydney.edu.au

Time to be more realistic in our expectations of interventions to help quitters

Telephone lines devoted to supporting smoking cessation (quitlines) hold great promise because they are relatively inexpensive and highly accessible.1 Busy doctors who lack confidence in dealing with seemingly intractable smoking might be relieved to refer their patients to these specialised services, which are increasingly available worldwide. It is not clear, however, that they deliver the expected outcomes. In the linked randomised controlled trial (doi:10.1136/bmj.e1696), Ferguson and colleagues compare standard quitline support plus both free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and six follow-up calls with standard quitline support alone.2 Importantly, this trial was conducted in England, where NRT is already free to smokers trying to quit. In addition to providing information about the effect of making the pathway for receiving NRT even more unimpeded than it already is, the study’s findings help to answer two central questions about assisted smoking cessation.

Firstly, what proportion of smokers wanting to quit are interested in receiving support and medication in an environment where NRT is already provided free via doctors? Researchers in this field often note that many smokers do not use the treatment …

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