January 8, 2014

Quitting Smoking UnassistedThe 50-Year Research Neglect of a Major Public Health Phenomenon

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

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JAMA. 2014;311(2):137-138. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.282618

Smoking cessation research today is dominated by the development and evaluation of interventions to improve the odds of quitting successfully. Yet little attention has been paid to the large majority of ex-smokers who quit without recourse to any formal assistance. To many, these unassisted quitters are of little interest other than as a comparator population against which to test the efficacy or effectiveness of pharmaceutical or behavioral interventions. The effect of this neglect is compounded by the preference for reporting intervention success as rates rather than as the numbers of ex-smokers generated across populations through such interventions. In so doing, researchers have insulated those in policy and practice from the importance of unassisted smoking cessation and the unparalleled contribution it has made and will continue to make to reducing smoking prevalence.

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