Smoking cessation clinical studies: quit-rates overestimated

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: iStock/Terroa)
(Image: iStock/Terroa)

Related tags: Health care, Clinical trial

Researchers conducting smoking cessation clinical trials should use biochemical measures to determine if participants have quit – as many falsely self-report, according to a recent study.

According to the report, which was recently published​ by the scientific journal Addiction, a high proportion of smokers enrolled in smoking cessation programs falsely report having quit.

This study was conducted to inform the scientific conversation on whether or not we still need to use biochemical measures of quitting in clinical trials of smoking cessation interventions​,” lead author Dr. Taneisha Scheuerman told

The study followed five smoking cessation clinical trials across the US and found more than 40% of the participants who self-reported at quitting later failed a salvia test checking for cotinine, which is an accurate measure of whether someone has smoked in the past few days, the researchers said.

In the report, Scheuerman noted: “For clinical researchers, another important finding is that misreporting rates were similar across intervention and control conditions, suggesting that the relative effectiveness of interventions tested was the same using self-report and cotinine levels​."

Per the study’s results, Scheuerman said researchers conducting clinical trials need to take into account that self-report will over-estimate quit rates.

One way of doing this is to use biochemical measures such as cotinine levels or breath carbon monoxide levels​,” she explained. “Smokers often need to make several quit attempts before they successfully become ex-smokers. We encourage smokers to be open with their health care providers about their struggles to quit, and providers can help by creating a collaborative, non-judgmental atmosphere​.”


Source: Addiction
DOI: 10.1111/add.13913
Accuracy of self-reported smoking abstinence in clinical trials of hospital-initiated smoking interventions
Authors: Scheuermann, T. S., Richter, K. P., Rigotti, N. A., Cummins, S. E., Harrington, K. F., Sherman, S. E., Zhu, S.-H., Tindle, H. A., Preacher, K. J., and the Consortium of Hospitals Advancing Research on Tobacco (CHART)

Related topics: Clinical Development

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