577 Individual behavioural counselling helps people to quit smoking

April 24, 2018

written by Brian McAvoy

Clinical question

Compared with no treatment or brief advice, how effective is individual behavioural counselling in promoting smoking cessation?

Bottom line

There was high-quality evidence that individually delivered smoking cessation counselling assisted smokers to quit. Individual counselling increased the chances of quitting by between 40% and 80%, compared with minimal support. There was moderate-quality evidence of a smaller relative benefit when counselling was used in addition to pharma­cotherapy, compared with people using pharmacotherapy alone. There is a suggestion intensive counselling may be better, when compared with a brief counselling interven­tion. The few studies that compared different types of counselling did not show any differences between them.


Almost half of the trials recruited people in hospital set­tings, but there was no evidence of heterogeneity of results in different settings. There was a range of smoking cessation counsellors, including health educators and psychologists.


Individual counselling is commonly used to help people who are trying to quit smoking. The review looked at trials of counselling by a trained therapist providing one or more face-to-face sessions, separate from medical care. The outcome was being a non-smoker at least 6 months later.

Cochrane Systematic Review

Lancaster T and Stead LF. Individual behavioural counsel­ling for smoking cessation. Cochrane Reviews, 2017, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001292.DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD001292.pub3. This review contains 49 studies involving around 19,000 participants.

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.