Worldwide, between 80,000 and 100,000 young people start smoking every day. Many adolescent tobacco programmes focus on preventing teenagers from starting to smoke, but some programmes have been aimed at helping those teenagers who are already smoking to quit. We set out to investigate whether these programmes can help young people quit smoking for six months or longer. Searches are up to date as of June 2017.
We identified 41 studies (around 13,000 participants) that researched ways of helping teenagers to quit smoking. These studies were of mixed quality and looked at various methods for stopping smoking, including one-to-one counselling, counselling as part of a group, methods using computers or text messaging, or a combination of these. Four studies used drug treatments such as nicotine patches. Most studies recruited participants from schools, and 29 of the studies were carried out in North America.
Although some programmes showed promise, especially those that used group counselling and those that combined a variety of approaches, there was no strong evidence that any particular method was effective in helping young people to stop smoking. Trials differed in how they measured whether a person had quit smoking, and many trials did not have enough participants for us to be confident about wider application of the results. Medications such as nicotine replacement and bupropion were not shown to be successful with adolescents, and some adverse events were reported, although these events were generally mild and findings were based on studies with small numbers of participants. Based on these findings we cannot currently identify a programme for helping adolescents to stop smoking that is more successful than trying to stop unaided.
Quality of the evidence
The quality of evidence was low or very low for all of the outcomes in this review. This is because of issues with the quality of some of the studies, the small number of studies and participants for some outcomes, and the differences between the studies.