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With the ban on smoking in public places in England coming into force on 1 July, many smokers will need support to quit. Online support is available at the well designed site www.packitin.org. Registration at the site costs £10 for three months, a relatively modest fee in comparison with the price of cigarettes. The site has several support tools and tries to generate a sense of community—for example, through chat rooms. The features include an “Ask the doctor” section and a calculator that shows how much you have saved by not smoking.
Another smoking cessation site, which carries NHS branding, is www.gosmokefree.co.uk. Neatly combining online resources with more traditional off-line support such as a telephone helpline and links to users' local facilities, it is an informative and helpful site for people who are considering quitting. Its logical layout guides smokers through the steps to quitting smoking and offers answers to questions that a typical smoker may ask. There is also a secure online form to ask an expert a question. This is an excellent and user friendly facility.
Although the web is full of clever and flashy websites covering contemporary and fashionable topics, simple websites concerned with historical issues can still be effective. Take the website of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Maryland and in particular www.civilwarmed.org/collections.cfm, which gives a fascinating insight into the lives and times of doctors who practised in the American civil war. The text is not long and is accompanied by good illustrations.
The internet is an ideal place to store and distribute information from the fast moving area of adverse drug reactions. One fine example of this is the Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin, which is published every two months and is freely available at www.tga.gov.au/adr/aadrb.htm. As is often the case these days the bulletin is published as a PDF file (although HTML versions are also available), and the online archive extends back to 1995. With the most recent edition published at the top of the home page, it is easy to keep up to date with the latest thinking on adverse reactions.
Over the last few years podcasting has become an increasingly popular means of distributing digital audio and video files over the internet. Podcasts are usually associated with music, but lectures and, in the case of the Johns Hopkins Medicine “PodMed” site (www.hopkinsmedicine.org/mediaII/Podcasts.html), patients' information can also be transmitted by regular podcasts. This regular offering is a short news show aimed at health consumers, which can be played in an MP3 player. It is free and updated weekly.
We welcome suggestions for websites to be included in future Netlines. Readers should contact Harry Brown at the above email address