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Personalised ‘stop smoking’ intervention works

Personalised ‘stop smoking’ intervention works

Publication date: Thursday, 02 February 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

Offering smokers a taster session at an NHS Stop Smoking Service and explaining their personal risk of developing smoking-related diseases doubles their likelihood of attending a stop smoking course.

Although smoking rates in England have halved since 1974, this decrease has slowed since 2007, and the total cost for the National Health Service to treat smoking-related disease was estimated at £5.2 billion in 2005-06. NHS Stop Smoking Services (SSS) are an effective way of helping people to stop smoking, but attendance is low and only around one in 20 (less than 5%) smokers use the service each year.

In this trial, 4384 smokers across England were either given a routine referral letter (control group 1748) or a new personalised letter explaining their individual risk of smoking-related diseases and offering them a stop smoking taster session (intervention group 2636).

The personalised letter included the person’s individual risk of serious illness if they continued to smoke, rating them as being at high, very high or extremely high risk compared to people who used to or never smoked. It also included information about how much their risk would reduce if they quit smoking immediately. The calculations were based on information from the person’s medical records.

The personalised letter doubled the likelihood that a person would attend the SSS (Table). It also doubled the likelihood of people completing the full six-week course (15% vs 7%).

 Six months after receiving the letter, those who had the personalised letter were more than 1.5 times more likely to have gone without a cigarette for a week (9% vs 5.5% [2]). Of those who took up the offer and attended the taster session, and also subsequently attended the Stop Smoking Service, 28.7% achieved 7-day abstinence.

Attendance at the first session of a Stop Smoking Services course was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the control group:
  • (458 [17·4%] vs 158 [9·0%] participants; unadjusted odds ratio 2·12 [95% CI 1·75–2·57]; p<0·0001).
Table: A personalised letter doubles the chance of people attending Stop Smoking Services.


The researchers estimate that while the intervention is more costly than usual treatment in the short-term it is likely to be cost-effective in the longer-term because of health-care cost savings and health benefits attributable to the reduced risk of smoking-related diseases.

Gilbert H, et al. Effectiveness of personalised risk information and taster sessions to increase the uptake of smoking cessation services (Start2quit): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2017, published online 24 January.

More information

Topics covered:
Category: Evidence in Practice
Edition: Volume 2 Number 1 PCCJ Online 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

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