Introduction: The use of quitlines for smoking cessation has contracted, with service providers adapting through the development of comprehensive interactive online smoking cessation services. The primary aim of this review is to investigate the continuum of online cessation services, innovations in design and service components, measures used in formative, process and outcome evaluations, as well as evidence of effectiveness.
Methods: This review includes the peer-reviewed literature, scholarly articles and the grey literature material. Databases searched included: PubMed, Google Scholar, SCOPUS and the Cochrane Collaboration.
Results/findings: 56 academic journal articles and the 5 grey literature reports met the inclusion criteria for this review. Developmental stages of online/combination services included: static websites, tailored feedback, email and text services, interactive components, social media, pharmacological offers; as well as social and professional support mechanisms. Innovations in online smoking cessation include: chat rooms, new recruitment strategies, mobile apps, service tailoring and messaging support groups. Online cessation services were significantly cheaper and more popular than quitlines; however, abstinence rates appear higher amongst quitline users.
Conclusions: Three likely catalysts for the shift from quitlines to online services are the rapid development of technology, increased internet access and the general movement of the goods and services sector to digital channels. The challenge for online cessation service providers is to leverage their comparative cost advantage and develop strategies that keep pace, engage users and increase service effectiveness.
Implications: Our paper synthesises a wide-range of the literature that evaluates the effectiveness and scope of online smoking cessation programs. Through applying this literature to the stages of evaluation framework, we also provide one of the first detailed roadmaps towards developing comprehensive evaluation methodology for online smoking cessation services.