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To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On

TUESDAY, May 26 -- Internet- and computer-based smoking cessation programs are a cost-effective alternative to more expensive telephone hotlines or counseling services for smokers who are trying to quit, according to a new study.

"With the rising cost of health care, there is a need to look for less expensive health programs that are effective," study co-author Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, said in a university news release. "What we found in our meta-analysis was that Web- and computer-based programs, once they're up and running, are a worthy alternative."

The researchers analyzed the findings of 22 trials, involving almost 30,000 participants, that compared smokers who used Web- or computer-based smoking cessation programs with those who tried to quit on their own.

The percentage of smokers who remained tobacco-free a year after using the Web- or computer-based programs was 9.9 percent, about 1.7 times higher than the rate for those who tried to quit on their own.

The findings are in the May 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Currently, Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs are not commonly recommended, because evidence of their effectiveness has been inconsistent," the lead author, Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung, a staff physician in the Smoking Cessation Clinic at the National Cancer Center in South Korea, said in the news release. "But our review of the evidence to date suggests that Web- and computer-based programs have a legitimate place in tobacco dependence treatment options."

Such programs can be particularly helpful for people with no health insurance and those concerned about the stigma of seeking treatment, Myung suggested.

Moskowitz said that many smokers prefer the flexibility and privacy offered by Web- and computer-based programs, which can be translated into various languages to help a wide range of people.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quitting smoking.

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Posted: May 2009