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June 24, 2010

Study seeks adult smokers for free online smoking-cessation program

A new online study to help people quit smoking is being launched at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The study, called WebQuit, is enrolling adult smokers nationwide. Participation is free to eligible individuals.

The goal of WebQuit is to improve the effectiveness of online smoking-cessation programs. Study director Jonathan Bricker, a clinical psychologist who specializes in smoking-cessation research, says that online smoking-cessation programs are improving but still have a very long way to go.

“That old Mark Twain quote that ‘quitting smoking is easy — I’ve done it a thousand times’ unfortunately is still very true today despite the plethora of smoking-cessation methods available to people,” said Bricker, a faculty member in the Cancer Prevention Program in the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division. “But I think web-based interventions are the wave of the future, not only because they are generally cheaper than personal therapy but because as a culture we are becoming more reliant on the convenient do-it-yourself options we find online.”

Study participants will not be paid, but they will receive interactive tools for dealing more effectively with urges to smoke. They also will receive step-by-step guides for quitting smoking, personalized plans for quitting and staying off cigarettes, and electronic links for reaching one-on-one expert help for quitting.

Participants will be randomly assigned by computer (like the tossing of a coin) to one of two online smoking-cessation programs. The success rates of participants will then be compared. Bricker is hopeful that the study will help adults in their quest to kick the habit.

“Our goal is to try to find what works and what doesn’t; what to include in these programs and how to improve them so they can become more effective,” said Bricker, also a faculty member in the UW Department of Psychology.

Involvement in the study will entail completing online questionnaires, including several follow-up surveys. Eligible participants must be at least 18 and not currently participating in other smoking-cessation programs, among other requirements.

To enroll in the WebQuit study or for more information, please visit www.webquit.com.