Web-based programs can help adult smokers kick the habit, but they may not be effective for adolescents, according to a new report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Evidence on the benefits of Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs has been mixed, Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung of the National Cancer Center in Goyang, South Korea and his colleagues note. To better understand their effectiveness, they performed a combined analysis of 22 randomized controlled trials of Web- or computer-based smoking cessation programs, including 29,549 people.

Overall, compared with smokers in the control groups, those enrolled in Internet or computer programs were 1.44 times more likely to quit, Myung and his team found. When they looked at the nine trials involving Web-based programs, they found the programs increased quit rates by 1.4-fold; smokers enrolled computer-based programs were 1.48 times more likely to quit than smokers in control groups.

After 6 to 10 months follow-up, 11.7 percent of the smokers who took part in the computer or Web interventions were still abstinent, compared with 7 percent of those in control groups. At 12 months, 9.9 percent of people in the intervention groups were still not smoking, compared with 5.7 percent of those in the control groups.

When the researchers looked at adolescent smokers, however, they found that these programs had no significant effect on quit rates or abstinence. There were just three studies that included teens, Myung and his team note, but other studies of smoking cessation efforts have reported similar results. More studies of smoking cessation that include this age group are needed, they add.

"We found sufficient clinical evidence to support the use of Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs for adult smokers," they conclude. "As global Web users continue to increase, Web-based smoking cessation programs could become a promising new strategy that is easily accessible for smokers worldwide."