What do we know about unassisted smoking cessation in Australia? A systematic review, 2005–2012

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A significant proportion of smokers who quit do so on their own without formal help (ie, without professionally or pharmacologically mediated assistance), yet research into how smokers quit focuses primarily on assisted methods of cessation.


The aim of the present work was to systematically review recent smoking cessation research in Australia, a nation advanced in tobacco control, to determine what is known about smokers who quit unassisted in order to (1) inform a research agenda to develop greater understanding of the many smokers who quit unassisted and (2) elucidate possible lessons for policy and mass communication about cessation.


In January 2013, four e-databases and the grey literature were searched for articles published between 2005 and 2012 on smoking cessation in Australia. Articles focusing solely on interventions designed to stimulate cessation were excluded, as were articles focusing solely on assisted cessation, leaving articles reporting on smokers who quit unassisted. Data from articles reporting on unassisted cessation were extracted and grouped into related categories.


A total of 248 articles reported on smoking cessation, of which 63 focused solely on interventions designed to stimulate cessation, leaving 185 reporting on the method of cessation (‘how' a smoker quits). Of these, 166 focused solely on assisted cessation, leaving 19 reporting, either directly or indirectly, on smokers who quit unassisted. Data from these studies indicated 54% to 69% of ex-smokers quit unassisted and 41% to 58% of current smokers had attempted to quit unassisted.


The majority of Australian smokers quit or attempt to quit unassisted, yet little research has been dedicated to understanding this process. Almost all research that reported unassisted cessation referenced it as a comparator to the focal point of assisted cessation. Public health may benefit from insights gained from greater research into the cessation method used by most smokers. Suggestions and a rationale for such research are provided.

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