Background: Teenage smoking prevalence is around 15% in developing countries (with wide variation from country to country), and around 26% in the UK and USA. Although most tobacco control programmes for adolescents are based around prevention of uptake, there are also a number of initiatives to help those who want to quit. Since those who do not smoke before the age of 20 are significantly less likely to start as adults, there is a strong case for programmes for young people that address both prevention and treatment.
Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of strategies that help young people to stop smoking tobacco.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) and the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group's Specialized Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsyclNFO, ERIC, CINAHL, and the bibliographies of identified trials. We also searched the 'grey' literature (unpublished materials), and contacted authors and experts in the field where necessary.
Selection criteria: Types of studies: Randomized controlled trials, cluster-randomized controlled trials and controlled trials.
Types of participants: Young people, aged less than 20, who are regular tobacco smokers. Types of interventions: The interventions ranged from simple ones such as pharmacotherapy, targeting individual young people, through complex programmes targeting people or organizations associated with young people (for example, their families or schools), or the community in which young people live. We included cessation programmes but excluded programmes primarily aimed at prevention of uptake. Types of outcome measures: The primary outcome was smoking status at six months follow up, among those who smoked at baseline. We report the definition of cessation used in each trial (e.g seven- or thirty-day point prevalence abstinence, or sustained or prolonged abstinence), and we preferred biochemically verified cessation when that measure was available.
Data collection and analysis: Both authors independently assessed the eligibility of candidate trials identified by the searches, and extracted data from them. We categorized included trials as being at low, medium or high risk of bias, based on concealment of allocation, blinding (where applicable) and the handling of attrition and losses to follow up. We conducted limited meta-analyses of some of the trials, provided that it was appropriate to group them and provided that there was minimal heterogeneity between them. We estimated pooled odds ratios using the Mantel-Haenszel method, based on the quit rates at longest follow up for trials with at least six months follow up from the start of the intervention.
Main results: We found 15 trials, covering 3605 young people, which met our inclusion criteria (seven cluster-randomized controlled trials, six randomized controlled trials and two controlled trials). Three trials used or tested the transtheoretical model (stages of change) approach, two tested pharmacological aids to quitting (nicotine replacement and bupropion), and the remaining trials used various psycho-social interventions, such as motivational enhancement or behavioural management. The trials evaluating TTM interventions achieved moderate long-term success, with a pooled odds ratio (OR) at one year of 1.70 ( 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.25 to 2.33) persisting at two-year follow up with an OR of 1.38 (95% CI 0.99 to 1.92). Neither of the pharmacological intervention trials achieved statistically significant results (data not pooled), but both were small-scale, with low power to detect an effect. The three interventions (5 trials) which used cognitive behavioural therapy interventions did not individually achieve statistically significant results, although when the three Not on Tobacco trials were pooled the OR 1.87; (95% CI 1.00 to 3.50) suggested some measure of effectiveness. Although the three trials that incorporated motivational interviewing as a component of the intervention achieved a pooled OR of 2.05 (95% CI 1.10 to 3.80), the impossibility of isolating the effect of the motivational interviewing in these trials meant that we could not draw meaningful inferences from that analysis.
Authors' conclusions: Complex approaches show promise, with some persistence of abstinence (30 days point prevalence abstinence at six months), especially those incorporating elements sensitive to stage of change. There were few trials with evidence about pharmacological interventions (nicotine replacement and bupropion), and none demonstrated effectiveness for adolescent smokers. Psycho-social interventions have not so far demonstrated effectiveness, although pooled results for the Not on Tobacco trials suggest that that this approach may yet prove to be effective; however, their definition of cessation (one or more smoke-free days) may not adequately account for the episodic nature of much adolescent smoking. There is a need for well-designed adequately powered randomized controlled trials for this population of smokers, with a minimum of six months follow up and rigorous definitions of cessation (sustained and biochemically verified). Attrition and losses to follow up are particularly problematic in trials for young smokers, and need to be kept to a minimum, so that management and interpretation of missing data need not compromise the findings.