Email Support May Be as Effective as Medication for Quitting Smoking

Hands breaking a cigarette in twoPersonalized, frequent email support is as effective at helping smokers quit as popular smoking cessation drugs, according to an American Cancer Society study published in the journal Tobacco Control.

Success with smoking cessation is notoriously low. Nicotine is highly addictive, and smoking is often heavily integrated into smokers’ lives. Replacing the habit can be challenging. A 2016 study found the average smoker makes between six and 29 quit attempts before ending the habit permanently. Using email support, about a third of smokers were able to quit.

Supportive Emails to Quit Smoking

Researchers worked with a group of 1,070 smokers who planned to quit. They divided participants into three groups:

  • The first group received 27 personally tailored smoking cessation emails.
  • The second group received three to four personally tailored emails that included links to additional information in downloadable booklets.
  • The third group received a single generic email.

All the emails also contained links to resources that provide assistance in quitting smoking.

Researchers asked participants about their success quitting after seven days, one month, three months, and six months following the beginning of the study.

Smokers in the group that received 27 emails had a quit success rate of 34%. Those who received three to four personalized emails quit smoking at a rate of 30.8%, and the single email group quit at a rate of 25.8%. Participants in the group that received the most emails were also more likely to use additional nonmedical smoking cessation aids, such as classes and websites.

These results were independent of other factors that can affect smoking cessation success, including number of cigarettes smoked per day, presence of other smokers in the home, use of smoking cessation aids, and gender. This suggests the emails, rather than some other factor, played a key role in smoking cessation success.

The quit success rate of the first group was similar to the success rate of smokers who use the most effective smoking cessation drugs, the study’s authors say. This points to the role that personalized support can play in smoking cessation success. For smokers who want to avoid medication or nicotine replacement, customized support may be a vital tool.


  1. Chaiton, M., Diemert, L., Cohen, J. E., Bondy, S. J., Selby, P., Philipneri, A., & Schwartz, R. (2016). Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers. BMJ Open, 6(6). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011045
  2. Customized, frequent emails show promise in tobacco cessation. (2017, May 18). Retrieved from
  3. Westmaas, J. L., Bontemps-Jones, J., Hendricks, P. S., Kim, J., & Abroms, L. C. (2017). Randomised controlled trial of stand-alone tailored emails for smoking cessation. Tobacco Control. doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-053056

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  • SarahGrace

    May 31st, 2017 at 11:16 AM

    I would love for my mom to finally be able to kick the habit but she has tried so many times unsuccessfully that I am not sure when or if she will ever be ready to try again. It is very discouraging for her to have tried all the right things and still to have had no long term success. This could be what she needs but I feel like we are all in touch with her all the time so how might this be any different?

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