Motivating the unmotivated for health behavior change: A randomized trial of cessation induction for smokers

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Hollings Cancer Center,86 Jonathan Lucas St., PO Box 250955, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.
Clinical Trials (Impact Factor: 1.93). 03/2010; 7(2):157-66. DOI: 10.1177/1740774510361533
Source: PubMed


Many smokers remain unwilling or unable to make a quit attempt. For these smokers, novel strategies to induce quit attempts are necessary to achieve further reductions in smoking prevalence.
This article describes the design and methods of an ongoing nationwide telephone-based clinical trial for cessation induction, the principal aim of which is to test the hypothesis that samples of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), can induce quit attempts among smokers otherwise unmotivated to quit.
Smokers are recruited proactively through online channels. A 'behavioral filter' is used to identify and separate motivated versus unmotivated smokers, the latter of whom (N = 750) are formally entered into the clinical trial. Participants are randomized to one of two treatment conditions designed to promote self-efficacy and motivation to quit: (1) practice quit attempt (PQA) or (2) PQA plus NRT sampling. The primary outcome measure tested over a 6-month follow-up is the incidence of additional quit attempts as well as hypothesized mediators of treatment effects.
This study details the challenges of identifying and treating smokers who are unmotivated to quit. Strengths include a novel treatment approach, tested among a group of proactively recruited smokers nationwide, with a unique method of identifying cessation-resistant smokers.
The omission of a true control group, testing the effect of the PQA itself, is an inherent limitation to the study design. Online recruitment presents additional study challenges, all of which are discussed in detail.
The study has translational potential to guide both clinical and policy recommendations for cessation induction. Further, while the focus is on smoking, this trial may serve as an example to researchers and clinicians who focus on other health behaviors, and who themselves are challenged with motivating people who are unmotivated for change.

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    • "Another explanation was that 1-week free NRT was enough to encourage motivated smokers to continue to use it for a longer duration, because some smokers who attended the clinic were already motivated to quit and giving 1-week or 2-week supply did not have any measurable effect on their determination to quit and buy NRT afterwards. This further reflects the importance of self-motivation in quitting smoking [29]. Also, the price of NRT as compared to the price of the cigarettes is an important consideration for smokers. "
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    • "As a result, our study was not powered on clinical outcomes of more direct interest such as quit attempts and cessation. While we acknowledge this as a limitation, we also believe it is always necessary to first demonstrate the feasibility of an approach before expending the vast amount of resources typically required for a cessation study (Carpenter et al., 2010 "
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