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Self-help interventions (generic, pre-printed, written or online materials giving advice about ways to quit) provided without personal support have a small effect on quit rates. Their impact is smaller and less certain than face-to-face interventions.

Materials intended to encourage smokers to attempt to quit and to help them in their efforts are widely available and need to be made available in regions where they are presently difficult to obtain. Printed materials are most common and may range from a brief guide and tip sheet to a structured manual with exercises to guide quit attempts. Materials that are tailored to the smoker's personal problems have better success but are more likely to be relevant to treatment-seeking smokers. Resources may include audiocassettes, videos, or computer programmes, as well as websites. Trials have been conducted with many types of smokers, using various types of materials offered alone, or provided as well as face-to-face advice or support. In experimental settings it has been difficult to demonstrate large or consistent long-term effects, but meta-analysis suggests a probable small benefit. In choosing particular materials to provide or recommend, it is important to take account of the accessibility of the material. This ought to be appropriate in language, literacy level and cultural approach. Some trials of internet-based interventions have shown positive effects, particularly those which are interactive and tailored to individuals, but results have been inconsistent.

If a smoker is already motivated to try to quit, it may be of more benefit during a clinical encounter, to provide a more intensive intervention. Encouraging the use of appropriate pharmacotherapy and offering personal encouragement will be of more benefit than supplying self-help materials alone.

Self-help materials are likely to be most useful as part of population-based approaches, where the number of people reached may compensate for their small effect.

Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.

Lancaster T, Stead LF
. Self-help interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005; 4.

Civljak M, Stead LF, Hartmann-Boyce J, Sheikh A, Car J. Internet-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD007078. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007078.pub4.

Chen YF, Madan J, Welton N, Yahaya I, Aveyard P, Bauld L, Wang D, Fry-Smith A, Munafò MR. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of computer and other electronic aids for smoking cessation: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Health Technology Assessment (Winchester, England) 2012; 16 (38): 1-205. logo
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