Background: The Internet is a promising venue for delivering smoking cessation treatment, either as a stand-alone program or as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy. However, there is little data to indicate what percent of smokers are interested in receiving online smoking cessation services or how best to recruit smokers to Internet-based programs.
Objective: Using a defined recruitment sample, this study aimed to identify the percentage of smokers who expressed interest in or enrolled in Project Quit, a tailored, online, cognitive-behavioral support program offered with adjunctive nicotine replacement therapy patches. In addition, we examined the effectiveness of several individual-level versus population-level recruitment strategies.
Methods: Members from two large health care organizations in the United States were invited to participate in Project Quit. Recruitment efforts included proactive invitation letters mailed to 34533 likely smokers and reactive population-level study advertisements targeted to all health plan members (> 560000 adults, including an estimated 98000 smokers across both health care organizations).
Results: An estimated 1.6% and 2.5% of adult smokers from each health care organization enrolled in Project Quit. Among likely smokers who received proactive study invitations, 7% visited the Project Quit website (n = 2260) and 4% (n = 1273) were eligible and enrolled. Response rates were similar across sites, despite using different sources to assemble the invitation mailing list. Proactive individual-level recruitment was more effective than other forms of recruitment, accounting for 69% of website visitors and 68% of enrollees.
Conclusions: Smokers were interested in receiving online smoking cessation support, even though they had access to other forms of treatment through their health insurance. Uptake rates for this program were comparable to those seen when smokers are advised to quit and are referred to other forms of smoking cessation treatment. In this sample, proactive mailings were the best method for recruiting smokers to Project Quit.