Background: While smoking cessation interventions have been shown to work, questions remain about how to increase their efficacy.
Purpose: To examine strategies for effective tobacco treatment in adults and special populations.
Data sources: MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Applied Health (CINAHL), Cochrane Library, Cochrane Clinical Trials Register, Psychological Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts (1 January 1980 to 10 June 2005).
Study selection: Systematic reviews; randomized, controlled trials; and observational studies.
Data extraction: Two reviewers independently abstracted data on study design, population, sample size, treatment, outcomes, and quality.
Data synthesis: Findings from systematic reviews were summarized and compared with findings from original research published beyond date ranges included in the reviews. Strength of evidence was used to assess the body of evidence. Our review included studies evaluating the efficacy of cessation strategies, such as self-help, counseling, single pharmaceutical agents, combined pharmacotherapies, and pharmacotherapies combined with psychological counseling. Research findings consistent with previous reviews show that self-help strategies alone are ineffective, but counseling and pharmacotherapy used either alone or in combination can improve rates of success with quit attempts. Two studies of self-help materials reported discrepancies across effects. Five studies provided mixed results for counseling interventions. Fourteen studies provided sufficient evidence of the efficacy of single pharmacotherapy, combined pharmacotherapy, and psychological interventions either with or without pharmacotherapy. Few studies focused on ways to reach or treat special populations. Three studies with hospitalized patients had findings consistent with a previous review showing no strong evidence that clinical diagnosis affected the likelihood of quitting. New evidence was insufficient to address the effectiveness of interventions for persons with coexisting psychiatric conditions and substance abuse problems.
Limitations: Previous systematic reviews variably cover the range of issues we addressed. More recent studies do not fill all gaps, especially those for persons with coexisting disease.
Conclusions: Although self-help strategies alone marginally affect quit rates, individual and combined pharmacotherapies and counseling either alone or in combination can significantly increase cessation. Using effective smoking treatments is strongly encouraged for all populations, especially those with high and heavy rates of smoking, such as psychiatric and substance abuse populations.