Is nicotine replacement therapy overvalued in smoking cessation? Analysis of smokers' and quitters' communication in social media

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Abstract

Background

Internet discussion forums provide new, albeit less used data sources for exploring personal experiences of illness and treatment strategies.

Objective

To gain an understanding of how discussion forum participants value nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in smoking cessation (SC).

Setting

Finnish national Internet-based discussion forum, STUMPPI, supporting SC and consisting of ten free discussion areas, each with a different focus. The analysis was based on STUMPPI forum participants' postings (n = 24 481) in five discussion areas during January 2007–January 2012.

Design

Inductive content analysis of the postings concerning NRT use or comparing NRT to other SC methods.

Results

Three major themes related to NRT in SC emerged from the discussions. These were as follows: (I) distrust and negative attitude towards NRT; (II) neutral acceptance of NRT as a useful SC method; and (III) trust on the crucial role of NRT and other SC medicines. The negative attitude was related to following perceptions: NRT use maintains tobacco dependence, fear of NRT dependence or experience of not gaining help from NRT use. NRT was perceived to be useful particularly in the initiation of SC attempts and in dealing with physiological dependence. The most highlighted factors of successful quitting were quitters' own psychological empowerment and peer support from the discussion community.

Conclusions

The majority of STUMPPI forum participants had low or balanced expectations towards the role of NRT in SC. More research from the smokers' and quitters' perspective is needed to assess the real value of NRT compared to other methods in SC.

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