Comparison of Allen Carr's Easyway programme with a specialist behavioural and pharmacological smoking cessation support service: a randomized controlled trial

Addiction. 2020 May;115(5):977-985. doi: 10.1111/add.14897. Epub 2020 Jan 22.


Background and aims: A combination of behavioural and pharmacological support is judged to be the optimal approach for assisting smoking cessation. Allen Carr's Easyway (ACE) is a single-session pharmacotherapy-free programme that has been in operation internationally for 38 years. We compared the effectiveness of ACE with specialist behavioural and pharmacological support delivered to the national standard in England.

Design: A two-arm, parallel-group, single-blind, randomized controlled trial.

Setting: London, UK, between February 2017 and May 2018.

Participants: A total of 620 participants (310 in ACE and 310 in the combined behavioural and pharmacological support condition) were included in the analysis. Adult (≥ 18 years) smokers wanting to quit were randomized in a 1 : 1 ratio. Mean age for the total sample was 40.8 years, with 53.4% being male. Participant baseline characteristics (ethnicity, educational level, number of previous quit attempts, nicotine dependence) were evenly balanced between treatment groups.

Intervention and comparator: The intervention was the ACE method of stopping smoking. This centres on a 4.5-6-hour session of group-based support, alongside subsequent text messages and top-up sessions if needed. It aims to make it easy to stop smoking by convincing smokers that smoking provides no benefits for them. The comparator was a specialist stop smoking service (SSS) providing behavioural and pharmacological support in accordance with national standards.

Measurements: The primary outcome was self-reported continuous abstinence for 26 weeks from the quit/quit re-set date verified by exhaled breath carbon monoxide measurement < 10 parts per million (p.p.m.). Primary analysis was by intention to treat. Secondary outcomes were: use of pharmacotherapy, adverse events and continuous abstinence up to 4 and 12 weeks.

Findings: A total of 468 participants attended treatment (255 ACE versus 213 SSS, P < 0.05). Of those who did attend treatment, 100 completed 6-month measures (23.7% ACE versus 20.7% SSS). Continuous abstinence to 26 weeks was 19.4% (60 of 310) in the ACE intervention and 14.8% (46 of 310) in the SSS intervention [risk difference for ACE versus SSS 4.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) = -1.4 to 10.4%, odds ratio (OR) = 1.38)]. The Bayes factor for superiority of the ACE condition was 1.24.

Conclusion: There was no clear evidence of a difference in the efficacies of the Allen Carr's Easyway (ACE) and specialist smoking cessation support involving behavioural support and pharmacotherapy.

Keywords: Allen Carr; NHS; cessation; randomised controlled trial; smoking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • London
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Self Report
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Text Messaging
  • Tobacco Smoking / therapy*
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*