Self-Reported Quit Aids and Assistance Used By Smokers At Their Most Recent Quit Attempt: Findings from the 2020 International Tobacco Control Four Country Smoking and Vaping Survey

Shannon Gravely, K. Michael Cummings, David Hammond, Ron Borland, Ann McNeill, Katherine A. East, Ruth Loewen, Nadia Martin, Hua Hie Yong, Lin Li, Alex Liber, David T. Levy, Anne C.K. Quah, Janine Ouimet, Sara C. Hitchman, Mary E. Thompson, Christian Boudreau, Geoffrey T. Fong

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: This study retrospectively describes smoking cessation aids, cessation services, and other types of assistance used by current and ex-smokers at their last quit attempt in four high-income countries. Aims and Methods: Data are from the Wave 3 (2020) International Tobacco Control Four Country Smoking and Vaping Survey in Australia, Canada, England, and the United States (US). Eligible respondents were daily smokers or past-daily recent ex-smokers who made a quit attempt/quit smoking in the last 24-months, resulting in 3614 respondents. Self-reported quit aids/assistance included: nicotine vaping products (NVPs), nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), other pharmacological therapies (OPT: varenicline/bupropion/cytisine), tobacco (noncombustible: heated tobacco product/smokeless tobacco), cessation services (quitline/counseling/doctor), other cessation support (e.g., mobile apps/website/pamphlets, etc.), or no aid. Results: Among all respondents, at last quit attempt, 28.8% used NRT, 28.0% used an NVP, 12.0% used OPT, 7.8% used a cessation service, 1.7% used a tobacco product, 16.5% other cessation support, and 38.6% used no aid/assistance. Slightly more than half of all smokers and ex-smokers (57.2%) reported using any type of pharmacotherapy (NRT or OPT) and/or an NVP, half-used NRT and/or an NVP (49.9%), and 38.4% used any type of pharmacotherapy (NRT and/or OPT). A quarter of smokers/ex-smokers used a combination of aids. NVPs and NRT were the most prevalent types of cessation aids used in all four countries; however, NRT was more commonly used in Australia relative to NVPs, and in England, NVPs were more commonly used than NRT. The use of NVPs or NRT was more evenly distributed in Canada and the US. Conclusions: It appears that many smokers are still trying to quit unassisted, rather than utilizing cessation aids or other forms of assistance. Of those who did use assistance, NRT and NVPs were the most common method, which appears to suggest that nicotine substitution is important for smokers when trying to quit smoking. Implications: Clinical practice guidelines in a number of countries state that the most effective smoking cessation method is a combination of pharmacotherapy and face-to-face behavioral support by a health professional. Most quit attempts however are made unassisted, particularly without the use of government-approved cessation medications. This study found that about two in five daily smokers used approved cessation medications (nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or other approved pharmacotherapies, such as varenicline). Notably, nicotine substitution in the form of either NRT and nicotine vaping products (NVPs) were the most common method of cessation assistance (used by one in two respondents), but the proportion using NRT and/or NVPs varied by country. Few smokers who attempted to quit utilized cessation services such as stop-smoking programs/counseling or quitlines, despite that these types of support are effective in helping smokers manage withdrawals and cravings. Primary healthcare professionals should ask their patients about smoking and offer them evidence-based treatment, as well as be prepared to provide smokers with a referral to trained cessation counselors, particularly when it comes to tailoring intensive treatment programs for regular daily smokers. Additionally, healthcare providers should be prepared to discuss the use of NVPs, particularly if smokers are seeking advice about NVPs, wanting to try/or already using an NVP to quit smoking, have failed repeatedly to quit with other cessation methods, and/or if they do not want to give up tobacco/nicotine use completely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1699-1707
Number of pages9
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

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