Aims: Widely varying estimates of treatment effects have been reported in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the efficacy of behavioural interventions for smoking cessation. Previous meta-analyses investigating behavioural interventions have important limitations and do not include recently published RCTs. We undertook a meta-analysis of RCTs to synthesize the treatment effects of four behavioural interventions, including minimal clinical intervention (brief advice from a healthcare worker), and intensive interventions, including individual, group, and telephone counselling.
Methods and results: We searched the CDC Tobacco Information and Prevention, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, Medline, and PsycINFO databases. We included only RCTs that reported biochemically validated smoking cessation outcomes at 6 and/or 12 months after the target quit date. Outcomes were aggregated using hierarchical Bayesian random-effects models. We identified 50 RCTs, which randomized n = 26 927 patients (minimal clinical intervention: 9 RCTs, n = 6456; individual counselling: 23 RCTs, n = 8646; group counselling: 12 RCTs, n = 3600; telephone counselling: 10 RCTs, n = 8225). The estimated mean treatment effects were minimal clinical intervention [odds ratio (OR) 1.50, 95% credible interval (CrI) 0.84-2.78], individual counselling (OR 1.49, 95% CrI 1.08-2.07), group counselling (OR 1.76, 95% CrI 1.11-2.93), and telephone counselling (OR 1.58, 95% CrI 1.15-2.29).
Conclusion: Intensive behavioural interventions result in substantial increases in smoking abstinence compared with control. Although minimal clinical intervention may increase smoking abstinence, there is insufficient evidence to draw strong conclusions regarding its efficacy.