Background: An increasing number of people have access to the Internet, and more people are seeking tobacco cessation resources online every year. Despite the proliferation of various online interventions and their evident acceptance and reach, little research has addressed their impact in the real world. Typically, low response rates to Internet-based follow-up surveys generate unrepresentative samples and large confidence intervals when reporting results. Objectives - The aim of this study was to achieve a high response rate on follow-up evaluation in order to better determine the impact of an Internet-based tobacco cessation intervention provided to tobacco users in Minnesota, United States. Methods - Participants included 607 men and women aged 18 and over residing in Minnesota who self-reported current tobacco use when registering for an Internet-based tobacco cessation program between February 2 and April 13, 2004. Participants were given access to an interactive website with features including social support, expert systems, proactive email, chat sessions, and online counselors. Mixed-mode follow-up (online survey with telephone survey for online nonrespondents) occurred 6 months after registration. Results - Of the study participants, 77.6% (471/607) responded to the 6-month follow-up survey (39.4% online and 38.2% by telephone). Among respondents, 17.0% (80/471, 95% CI = 13.6%-20.4%) reported that they had not smoked in the past 7 days (observed rate). Assuming all nonrespondents were still smoking (missing=smoking rate), the quit rate was 13.2% (80/607, 95% CI = 10.5%-15.9%). Conclusions - This mixed-mode follow-up survey of an online smoking cessation program achieved a high response rate and provides a more accurate estimate of long-term cessation rates than has been previously reported. Quit rates for the Internet-based tobacco cessation program were higher than those expected for unassisted quit attempts and are comparable to other evidence-based behavioral interventions. The similarities between quit rates demonstrates that an Internet-based cessation program may have as great an impact as, and can have wider reach than, other cessation programs such as those delivered by telephone. With over 100000 people having visited the website and over 23000 having registered, a 6-month self-reported quit rate of 13.2% suggests that the quitplan.com program helped over 3000 Minnesotans remain tobacco free for at least 6 months. Results of this study suggest that an Internet-based cessation program is a useful tool in states’ efforts to provide comprehensive cessation tools for smokers.
Author(s): Jessie E. Saul, PhD; Barbara A. Schillo, PhD; Sharrilyn Evered, PhD; Michael G. Luxenberg, PhD; Annette Kavanaugh, MS; Nathan Cobb, MD; Lawrence C. An, MDSeptember 18, 2007