Most smokers attempt to quit on their own even though cessation aids can substantially increase their chances of success. Millions of smokers seek cessation advice on the Internet, so using it to promote cessation products and services is one strategy for increasing demand for treatments. Little is known, however, about what cessation aids these smokers would find most appealing or what predicts their preferences (eg, age, level of dependence, or timing of quit date).
The objective of our study was to gain insight into how Internet seekers of cessation information make judgments about their preferences for treatments, and to identify sociodemographic and other predictors of preferences.
An online survey assessing interest in 9 evidence-based cessation products and services was voluntarily completed by 1196 smokers who visited the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout (GASO) webpage. Cluster analysis was conducted on ratings of interest.
In total, 48% (572/1196) of respondents were “quite a bit” or “very much” interested in nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), 45% (534/1196) in a website that provides customized quitting advice, and 37% (447/1196) in prescription medications. Only 11.5% (138/1196) indicated similar interest in quitlines, and 17% (208/1196) in receiving customized text messages. Hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis revealed that interest in treatments formed 3 clusters: interpersonal
supportive methods (eg, telephone counseling, Web-based peer support, and in-person group programs), nonsocial
informational methods (eg, Internet programs, tailored emails, and informational booklets), and pharmacotherapy (NRT, bupropion, and varenicline). Only 5% (60/1196) of smokers were “quite a bit” or “very much” interested in interpersonal–supportive methods compared with 25% (298/1196) for nonsocial–informational methods and 33% (399/1196) for pharmacotherapy. Multivariate analyses and follow-up comparisons indicated that level of interest in pharmacotherapy (“quite a bit or “very much” vs. “not at all”) varied as a function of education (n = 575, χ2
3 =16.6, P = .001), age (n = 528, χ2
3 = 8.2, P = .04), smoking level (n = 514, χ2
3 = 9.5, P = .02), and when smokers were planning to quit (n = 607, χ2
4 = 34.0, P < .001). Surprisingly, greater age was associated with stronger interest in nonsocial–informational methods (n = 367, χ2
3 = 10.8, P = .01). Interest in interpersonal–supportive methods was greater if smokers had used a quitline before (n = 259, χ2
1 = 18.3, P < .001), or were planning to quit earlier rather than later (n = 148, χ2
1 = 4.9, P = .03).
Smokers accessing the Internet for information on quitting appear to differentiate cessation treatments by how much interpersonal interaction or support the treatment entails. Quitting date, smoking level, and sociodemographic variables can identify smokers with varying levels of interest in the 3 classes of cessation methods identified. These results can potentially be used to more effectively target and increase demand for these treatments among smokers searching the Internet for cessation information.