• Tobacco dependence treatment;
  • national treatment guidelines;
  • survey


Aims  The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) asks countries to develop and disseminate comprehensive evidence-based guidelines and promote adequate treatment for tobacco dependence, yet to date no summary of the content of existing guidelines exists. This paper describes the national tobacco dependence treatment guidelines of 31 countries.

Design, setting, participants  A questionnaire on tobacco dependence treatment guidelines was sent by e-mail to a convenience sample of contacts working in tobacco control in 31 countries in 2007. Completed questionnaires were received from respondents in all 31 countries. During the course of these enquiries we also made contact with people in 14 countries that did not have treatment guidelines and sent them a short questionnaire asking about their plans to produce guidelines.

Measurements  The survey instrument was a 17-item questionnaire asking the following key questions: do the guidelines recommend brief interventions, intensive behavioural support, medications; which medications; do the guidelines apply to the whole health-care system and all professionals; do they refer explicitly to the Cochrane database; are they based on another country's guidelines; are they national or more local; are they endorsed formally by government; did they undergo peer review; who funded them; where were they published; do they include evidence on cost effectiveness of treatment?

Findings  According to respondents, all their countries' guidelines recommended brief advice, intensive behavioural support and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT); 84% recommended bupropion; 19% recommended varenicline; and 35% recommended telephone quitlines. Nearly half (48%) included cost-effectiveness evidence. Seventy-one per cent were supported formally by their government and 65% were supported financially by the government. Most (84%) used the Cochrane reviews as a source of evidence, 84% underwent a peer review process and 55% were based on the guidelines of other countries, most often the United States and England.

Conclusion  Overall, the guidelines reviewed followed the evidence base closely, recommending brief interventions, intensive behavioural support and NRT, and most recommended bupropion. Varenicline was not on the market in most of the countries in this survey when their guidelines were written, illustrating the need for guidelines to be updated periodically. None recommended interventions not proven to be effective, and some recommended explicitly against specific interventions (for lack of evidence). Most were peer-reviewed, many through lengthy and rigorous procedures, and most were endorsed or supported formally by their governments. Some countries that did not have guidelines expressed a need for technical support, emphasizing the need for countries to share experience, something the FCTC process is well placed to support.