Updated 20 November 2017

This factor is key for online quit-smoking

Online quit-smoking programmes can be effective, but it's important to have an active support structure, a new study finds.

Have you tried and failed once again to quit smoking?

An online social network designed to help you quit smoking can do just that, a new study finds.

But the odds of quitting rise along with the level of active involvement, the researchers said.

What the study entailed

They examined the impact of, a social network site created by the nonprofit anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative, in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. Network users can share information and support through blogs, forums and messages. More than 800 000 people have registered since the network was launched in 2008.

The study included more than 2 600 smokers who signed up on After three months, 21% of those who actively contributed content on the site had quit smoking, compared with 11% who only read others' posts and 8% of those who never visited the site.

Researchers from the Truth Initiative and the University of Iowa conducted the study, which was published recently in the journal PLoS One.

Active support important

"Spending time with others who are actively engaged in quitting smoking in a place where being a nonsmoker is supported and encouraged gives smokers the practical advice and support they need to stay with a difficult behaviour change," said lead author Amanda Graham.

"We know that quitting tobacco can be extremely difficult," Graham, senior vice president for innovations with the Truth Initiative, said in a university news release. "These results demonstrate what we hear from tobacco users, which is that online social connections and relationships can make a real difference."

Just signing up, though, may not be enough.

"How central you become in the online social network after the first week is a good indicator of whether you will quit smoking," said study co-author Kang Zhao, an assistant professor of management sciences at the University of Iowa.

"This is the first study to look at smokers' behaviours in an online community over time and to report a prospective relationship between social network involvement and quitting smoking," he said.

Image credits: iStock