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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. Materials may range from a brief guide and tip sheet to a structured material with exercises to guide quit attempts. Resources may include audio, videos, computer programmes, mobile phone applications, and 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 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. Pooled results from trials of mobile phone-based interventions show a positive effect. Some trials of internet-based interventions have shown positive effects, particularly those which are interactive and tailored to individuals, but results have been inconsistent. Whether some of these are more effective than others is unclear.

If a smoker is already motivated to try to quit, it is more beneficial to provide a more intensive intervention during a clinical encounter. Encouraging the use of appropriate behavioural or pharmacological therapy 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.

Hartmann-Boyce J, Lancaster T, Stead LF. Print-based self-help interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014; 5.

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.

Whittaker R, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Rodgers A, Gu Y. Mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 4. logo
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