A Review of the Theoretical Basis, Effects, and Cost Effectiveness of Online Smoking Cessation Interventions in the Netherlands: A Mixed-Methods Approach

Kei Long Cheung*, Ben Wijnen, Hein de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background: Tobacco smoking is a worldwide public health problem. In 2015, 26.3% of the Dutch population aged 18 years and older smoked, 74.4% of them daily. More and more people have access to the Internet worldwide; approximately 94% of the Dutch population have online access. Internet-based smoking cessation interventions (online cessation interventions) provide an opportunity to tackle the scourge of tobacco.

Objective: The goal of this paper was to provide an overview of online cessation interventions in the Netherlands, while exploring their effectivity, cost effectiveness, and theoretical basis.

Methods: A mixed-methods approach was used to identify Dutch online cessation interventions, using (1) a scientific literature search, (2) a grey literature search, and (3) expert input. For the scientific literature, the Cochrane review was used and updated by two independent researchers (n=651 identified studies), screening titles, abstracts, and then full-text studies between 2013 and 2016 (CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE). For the grey literature, the researchers conducted a Google search (n=100 websites), screening for titles and first pages. Including expert input, this resulted in six interventions identified in the scientific literature and 39 interventions via the grey literature. Extracted data included effectiveness, cost effectiveness, theoretical factors, and behavior change techniques used.

Results: Overall, many interventions (45 identified) were offered. Of the 45 that we identified, only six that were included in trials provided data on effectiveness. Four of these were shown to be effective and cost effective. In the scientific literature, 83% (5/6) of these interventions included changing attitudes, providing social support, increasing self-efficacy, motivating smokers to make concrete action plans to prepare their attempts to quit and to cope with challenges, supporting identity change and advising on changing routines, coping, and medication use. In all, 50% (3/6) of the interventions included a reward for abstinence. Interventions identified in the grey literature were less consistent, with inclusion of each theoretical factor ranging from 31% to 67% and of each behavior change technique ranging from 28% to 54%.

Conclusions: Although the Internet may provide the opportunity to offer various smoking cessation programs, the user is left bewildered as far as efficacy is concerned, as most of these data are not available nor offered to the smokers. Clear regulations about the effectiveness of these interventions need to be devised to avoid disappointment and failed quitting attempts. Thus, there is a need for policy regulations to regulate the proliferation of these interventions and to foster their quality in the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number230
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • Smoking cessation
  • telemedicine
  • review
  • online intervention
  • Internet-based intervention
  • behavioral change techniques
  • Netherlands
  • WEB
  • QUIT

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