skip to main content
Washington State Institute for Public Policy
Back Button

Computer-based programs for smoking cessation

Public Health & Prevention: Community-based
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated December 2014.
Open PDF
Computer-based smoking cessation programs use either the internet or software to assist smokers in their quit attempt. Programs have been targeted at both adolescents and adults. Generally, the programs help participants select a quit date and provide tailored information to assist with quitting and maintenance of smoking abstinence.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers $9,233 Benefits minus costs $48,029
Participants $20,334 Benefit to cost ratio $1,003.36
Others $705 Chance the program will produce
Indirect $17,804 benefits greater than the costs 100%
Total benefits $48,077
Net program cost ($48)
Benefits minus cost $48,029

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
31 7 1433 -0.427 0.066 31 -0.427 0.066 41 -0.431 0.001
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Regular smoking Labor market earnings associated with smoking $8,300 $19,553 $0 $0 $27,854
Health care associated with smoking $683 $193 $705 $342 $1,923
Mortality associated with smoking $250 $588 $0 $17,487 $18,324
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($24) ($24)
Totals $9,233 $20,334 $705 $17,804 $48,077
Click here to see populations selected
Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $40 2012 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($48)
Comparison costs $1 2012 Cost range (+ or -) 10%
Per-participant costs were based on the cost of an enhanced website, as reported in Graham, A.L., Chang, Y., Fang, Y., Cobb, N.K., Tinkelman, D.S., Niaura, R.S., Abrams, D. & Mandelblatt, J.S. (2012). Cost-effectiveness of internet and telephone treatment for smoking cessation: an economic evaluation of The iQUITT Study. Tobacco control. The control group cost was based on the “static” website costs from the same study; the control group either received a static website, no intervention, or a self-help brochure.
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

An, L.C., Klatt, C., Perry, C.L., Lein, E.B., Hennrikus, D.J., Pallonen, U.E., . . . Ahluwalia, J.S. (2008). The RealU online cessation intervention for college smokers: A randomized controlled trial. Preventive Medicine, 47(2), 194-199.

Brendryen, H., Drozd, F., & Kraft, P. (2008). A digital smoking cessation program delivered through internet and cell phone without nicotine replacement (happy ending): Randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 10(5)

Fritz, D.J., Hardin, S.B., Gore, P.A.J., & Bram, D. (2008). A computerized smoking cessation intervention for high school smokers. Pediatric Nursing, 34(1), 13-17.

Haug, S., Meyer, C., & John, U. (2011). Efficacy of an internet program for smoking cessation during and after inpatient rehabilitation treatment: a quasi-randomized controlled trial. Addictive Behaviors, 36(12), 1369-1372.

Hollis, J.F., Polen, M.R., Whitlock, E.P., et al. (2005). Teen reach: outcomes from a randomized, controlled trial of a tobacco reduction program for teens seen in primary medical care. Pediatrics, 115(4): 981-989.

Oenema, A., Brug, J., Dijkstra, A., Weerdt, I., & Vries, H. (2008). Efficacy and use of an internet-delivered computer-tailored lifestyle intervention, targeting saturated at intake, physical activity and smoking cessation: a randomized controlled trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35(2), 125-135.

Woodruff, S.I., Conway, T.L., Edwards, C.C., Elliott, S.P., & Crittenden, J. (2007). Evaluation of an Internet virtual world chat room for adolescent smoking cessation. Addictive Behaviors, 32(9), 1769-1786