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Ann Behav Med. 2019 Feb 1;53(2):180-195. doi: 10.1093/abm/kay026.

Internet-Based Programs Incorporating Behavior Change Techniques Are Associated With Increased Smoking Cessation in the General Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

Author information

School of Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia.
Clinical Research Design, IT, and Statistical Support (CReDITSS) Unit, Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle, New Lambton, New South Wales, Australia.
Department of General Medicine, John Hunter Hospital, New Lambton Heights, New South Wales, Australia.
Tobacco Control Unit, Cancer Council NSW, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Westmead Hospital, Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


Background and aims:

This study aims to (i) examine the effectiveness of internet-based smoking cessation programs; (ii) describe the number and type of behavior change techniques (BCTs) employed; and (iii) explore whether BCTs included in internet-based smoking cessation programs are related to program effectiveness.


MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CENTRAL databases were searched. Randomized controlled trials were included if they described the study of a smoking cessation program delivered via the internet; included current adult tobacco smokers from the general population; and were written in English. Random effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions were used to examine program effectiveness (pooled odds ratios, by outcome measure, i.e., 7 day point prevalence abstinence [PPA], 30 day PPA, other abstinence measure) in short- and long-term outcomes, and examine the associations between BCT number and type (individual BCTs and BCT domain) and program effectiveness.


Results from 45 studies were included (n = 65,736). Intervention effectiveness was found in the short term for all outcome measures (OR = 1.29, 95% CI 1.12, 1.50, p = .001), for "prolonged abstinence" (OR = 1.43, 95% CI 1.09, 1.87, p = .009), and "30 day PPA" (OR = 1.75, 95% CI 1.13, 2.72, p = .013). Internet-based programs were effective in the long term for all outcome measures (OR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.06, 1.35, p = .004) and for "prolonged abstinence" (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.19, 1.63, p < .001). On average, interventions used more BCTs than comparison groups (6.6 vs. 3.1, p = .0002). The impact of specific individual BCTs and BCT domains on effectiveness was examined and is reported.


Internet-based smoking cessation interventions increased the odds of cessation by 29 per cent in the short term and by 19 per cent in the long term. Internet-based smoking cessation intervention development should incorporate BCTs to increase effectiveness.




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