Online stop smoking program proving successful

By Dale Johnson Posted: August 29, 2016 6:00 a.m.

People who have difficulty giving up the smoking habit can get support from an online program offered by U of R researchers.
People who have difficulty giving up the smoking habit can get support from an online program offered by U of R researchers. Photo: External Relations

Researchers at the University of Regina have developed an online program to help people stop smoking – and preliminary results are very promising.

“Current findings are encouraging, as they suggest that an online and automated stop-smoking program may be an effective, cost-effective, and broad-reaching format for providing much needed support to Canadians,” says Holly Parkerson, psychology PhD candidate, who is working with psychology professor Gordon Asmundson on this research.

“Two-thirds of participants rated the program helpful and personally relevant,” she says.

About 200 people have taken part so far. Support is tailored to each individual’s needs and works to help build their confidence and plan for stressful situations that might increase their cravings. It means anyone with a computer can take the program, and be provided with automated support that has been tailored for the individual.

“Approximately 22% of our sample reported remaining smoke-free after eight weeks. This is twice the success rate of individuals making an unaided quit attempt in the Canadian population,” says Parkerson.

Asmundson and Parkerson

Professor Gordon Asmundson (left) and PhD candidate Holly Parkerson are encouraged by early results of their research. Photo: U of R Photography

The program is attracting interest from across Canada. Participants resided in the following provinces: Saskatchewan (32%), Alberta (22%), Ontario (20%), British Columbia (7%), Nova Scotia, (7%), Manitoba (4%), Quebec (3%), New Brunswick (2%) and Newfoundland (1%). Approximately 30% of participants from Saskatchewan were located outside Saskatoon and Regina.

“The wide geographic location of StopAdvisor participants suggests that people across Canada, in urban and rural settings, are seeking out online resources to help them break their smoking dependence,” she says.

Parkerson also says their research shows that by quitting smoking, some people may see a reduction in chronic pain.

“There is an emerging theory which suggests that people with chronic pain may have a harder time quitting smoking. This may be because smoking is often used as a way to cope with the impact of a pain condition,” explains Parkerson.

“The problem is that smoking has also been linked to the development of a variety of pain conditions, as well as pain severity and pain-related disability. In essence, the coping strategy used to manage the distressing physical condition can also make the condition worse. To date, no one has tested whether the effects are reversible. That is, does pain severity and related disability reduce when people quit smoking? We were able to test this theory and found some encouraging results.”

Parkerson says to their knowledge, this is the first study to provide evidence that pain and pain-interference outcomes may improve as a result of quitting smoking.

“Participants with pain who stayed smoke-free experienced significant reductions in pain severity and related disability at follow-up. On average, pain severity ratings decreased by half. Participants with pain who continued to smoke reported no changes in pain or related disability at follow-up,” she says.

“In the future, I plan to continue investigating the specific barriers that prevent people with chronic pain from staying smoke-free. I hope the research that I am involved in can contribute to the development of accessible tools and strategies that will help individuals who want to quit smoking.”  

The program is free for all Canadians who are daily smokers, between the ages of 18 and 65, are located in Canada, have Internet access, and are willing to make a serious attempt at quitting.

If you are interested in participating please visit