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Personalised smoking cessation sessions can improve quit attempts

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Smoking is one of the largest avoidable killers Smoking is one of the largest avoidable causes of death in the UK

Offering patients a taster smoking cessation session, as well as personalised advice on disease risk doubles the likelihood of a successful quit attempt, according to a study in The Lancet.

The study examined 4384 smokers from 18 service areas across England. Of these, 1748 people were either given a routine referral letter, while 2636 people new personalised letter explaining their individual risk of smoking-related diseases and offering them a stop smoking taster session. Using information from the patient’s records, the personalised letters rated the patient’s risk of serious illness as high, very high or extremely high compared to people who used to or never smoked.

'Smokers underestimate their own personal risk of illness, so a key aim in motivating them to try to quit is to persuade them that these risks are personally relevant,’ said the study’s lead author Hazel Gilbert, senior research fellow at the Department of Primary Care and Population Health at University College Medical School. ‘Individual risk information can also arouse fear or concern, which might prompt them to quit, particularly when combined with a reassuring message that doing so would be effective and that help is available.’

The study found that 17% of patients who were sent the personalised letter attended a session of a smoking cessation course within six months of receiving the letter, compared with 9% of those who had the routine referral letter. It also doubled the chances of people completing a full six-week course.

‘The combination of hard-hitting “why quit” messages about the consequences of tobacco use, and supportive and positive “how to quit” messages, emphasising quitting resources, has been shown to be effective in some mass media campaigns,’ added Dr Gilbert. ‘In our study, we found that this combination of personalised risk and easy access to a session doubled smokers’ likelihood of attending and increased their chances of quitting.’

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