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Open Access Project Note

Trial protocol and preliminary results for a cluster randomised trial of behavioural support versus brief advice for smoking cessation in adolescents

Wolfgang A Markham1*, Christopher Bridle2, Gillian Grimshaw3, Alan Stanton4 and Paul Aveyard5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health and Social Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK

2 Clinical Trials Unit, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL UK

3 Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK

4 Solihull Care Trust, 3, The Green, Shirley Solihull, B90 4LA UK

5 Department of Primary Care & General Practice, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:336  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-336

Published: 14 December 2010



Many young people report they want to stop smoking and have tried to do so, but most of their quit attempts fail. For adult smokers, there is strong evidence that group behavioural support enhances quit rates. However, it is uncertain whether group behavioural support enhances abstinence in young smokers trying to quit.


A cluster randomised trial for young people trying to stop smoking to compare the efficacy of a school-based 9 week intensive group behavioural support course versus a school-based 7 week brief advice only course. Participants were assessed for evidence of tobacco addiction and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) was used if it was deemed appropriate by the therapist. Both types of course aimed to recruit approximately one hundred participants from approximately ten schools.

The primary outcome was successful quitting at 4 weeks after quit day judged according to the Russell standard. Had the trial been completed, abstinence at 6 months after quit day and the relationships between successful quit attempts and 1) psychological assessments of dependence prior to quitting 2) salivary cotinine concentration prior to quitting and 3) sociodemographic characteristics would also have been assessed. The proportion of participants who stopped smoking in each arm of the trial were compared using Chi square tests.

The trial was stopped shortly after it had started because funding to support the therapists running the stop smoking group behavioural support programme was withdrawn. Only three stop smoking courses were completed (two group support courses and one brief advice pharmacotherapy course). Seventeen participants in total entered the trial. At the end of the courses, one participant (10%) attending the group support programme had stopped smoking and no participant attending the brief advice programme had stopped smoking.


The trial was stopped so we were unable to determine whether group support helped more young people to stop smoking than brief advice. Engagement and recruitment of participants proved much more difficult than had been anticipated. Fifteen of the seventeen participants reported that quitting smoking was either pretty important or very important to them. Thus, the stop smoking success rate could, nevertheless, be considered disappointing.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN25181936