How to Keep Up With the Scientific Literature On Smoking Cessation

Several new databases and methods have made it much easier to keep yourself up-to-date on scientific evidence for the many claims one hears. Below I review my favorites (I apologize to our Canadian readers as this will be US-centric) First, the “bible” for me continues to be the USPHS “Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence” which can be found at www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco along with brief clinician guides, patient guides, etc. One caveat is that it is based on meta-analyses conducted in 2007 so is somewhat out of date. Another guideline for smokers with psychiatric or alcohol/drug problems is the American Psychiatric Association Practice Guideline for Substance Abuse (www.psychiatryonline.com) that has a good section on treatment in this group of smokers. A more up-to-date source is the Cochrane Library (www.thecochranelibrary.org) which is a set of meta-analyses for all medical disorders. It contains 176 metaanalyses concerning smoking. For searching I suggest using the following generic keywords or stems (tobacco, smok*, nicotin*, cigar*). The reviews include a “plain language summary” that is often helpful. Every year I search for “new” or “updated” reviews. For websites, I prefer the www.treatobacco.net website because its run by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco and has both clinical summaries (not just conclusions based on meta-analyses) and recent updates about smoking cessation. Another website that focuses on new findings is www.actiontoquit.org supported by a nonprofit organization that puts out informative monthly newsletters you can sign up for. Also, I like the ACCP website (www.tobaccodependence.chestnet.org) as a good overview. The treatment manuals I like best are Abrams et al The Tobacco Dependence Treatment Handbook and McEwen et al Manual of Smoking Cessation. Both are excellent with lots of practical, hands-on tips. Unfortunately, they are expensive (> $40 USD). If you are more ambitious, I suggest you go to PubMed (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed), the database for the US National Library of Medicine. I suggest you go to the “advanced search” and enter the keywords “nicotin* OR tobacco OR cigar* OR smok*”, limit your search to titles of articles, and to review articles, guidelines, or meta-analyses. Then save that search and the computer will forward you to the MyNCBI website (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/) and from there you can instruct the website to send you such articles that appeared in the last 30 days once per month.. If you limit it to reviews/meta-analyses, you will receive only 1-5 articles/month. And don’t worry, some months you will receive none. Or of course, you could set to once every 3 or 6 months instead. Be sure and check out the “related articles” list as that often gives a better paper than the one you found.