Effectiveness of WhatsApp online group discussion for smoking relapse prevention: protocol for a pragmatic randomized controlled trial

Yee Tak Derek Cheung, Ching Han Helen Chan, Kin Sang Ho, Wai Yin Patrick Fok, Mike Conway, Carlos King Ho Wong, William Ho Cheung Li, Man Ping Wang, Tai Hing Lam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Sustained psychosocial support via online social groups may help former tobacco users maintain abstinence. This study aims to examine the effectiveness of participating in a WhatsApp social group for long-term smoking cessation. Design: Two-arm, open-labelled, pragmatic, individually randomized controlled trial. Setting: All participants are service users of smoking cessation clinics, and all interventions are delivered via mobile phones. Participants: Participants included 1008 adult quitters who self-report no tobacco use in the past 3–30 days. Interventions: The intervention group (n = 504) will join a WhatsApp social group to receive standardized and theory-based reminders of smoking relapse prevention and participate in discussion with other WhatsApp group members using their own mobile phones. All social groups will be led by counselors or specialist nurse practitioners. The control group (n = 504) will receive similar reminders via short messages to their own mobile phones but will not interact with other participants. The intervention duration for both groups is 8 weeks. Both groups will receive a booklet at baseline about how to prevent smoking relapse. Measurements: The primary outcome is biochemically validated tobacco abstinence at 12 months after consent. Comments: The findings will provide evidence concerning the utility of operating online social group discussion for prevention of smoking relapse and sustaining long-term abstinence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1777-1785
Number of pages9
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Group discussion
  • WhatsApp
  • intervention
  • randomized controlled trial
  • relapse prevention
  • smoking cessation


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