Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Web-Based Interventions May Help Some Smokers

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Web-Based Interventions May Help Some Smokers

Article excerpt

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. -- Web-based smoking cessation programs can be useful for some smokers, but better quality standards need to be established for them, several speakers said at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 6% of all Internet users have searched for smoking cessation information on the Internet, said Dr. Nathan Cobb of Beth Israel Hospital, Boston.

Dr. Cobb is the founder of the smoking cessation site www.quitnet.com, which he said has already gotten more than 1 million visitors without doing any marketing. The site is funded mainly through contracts with state governments, health plans, and large employers.

To find out exactly what type of information smokers are looking for when they visit a smoking cessation Web site, Dr. Cobb surveyed 111 first-time site visitors over a 10-day period. Overall, 76% of participants were from the United States, and although they tended to be younger adults, only 3% were younger than 18 years, he said. And 17% of respondents had quit smoking within the last 7 days.

Strategies for coping with nicotine withdrawal were the most popular features on the site, according to the survey. That was followed by more specific information on how to quit, which in turn was followed by motivational pictures, including "black lungs to scare the hell out of me," as one respondent put it.

Respondents also liked the "meter" on the site that keeps track of the amount of time the person has stayed off of cigarettes as well as the amount of money saved.

Rated the least helpful was phone conversation with counselors. "That was quite a surprise because regular users are very interested" in that feature, he said. "The first-time visitors are not interested in support or chat, even though that is one of the major uses of the site."

One problem with trying to find smoking cessation help online is that no good way has been developed to rate various sites, said Amanda Graham, Ph.D., of Brown University, in Providence, R.I. Dr. Graham and her colleagues decided to adapt the Public Health Service's clinical practice guidelines on smoking cessation for use as an evaluation tool for smoking cessation Web sites.

To find the sites, the researchers used four search engines. Of the 202 smoking-related sites they found, only 46 were for treatment. …

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