Objective-To provide an overview of the role of social support in smoking c
essation and to critically review evidence regarding the use of "buddy syst
ems" (where smokers are specifically provided with someone to support them)
to aid smoking cessation.
Data sources-Studies were located by searching Medline and Psyclit using th
e key words "smoking", "smoking cessation", "social support", and "buddy" A
dditional studies were identified through reference lists. Only studies rep
orted in English and published since 1980 were included.
Study selection-Studies were selected on four criteria: publication in a pe
er reviewed journal; randomised controlled trial using smokers who wanted t
o stop; the use of a social support intervention, including a "buddy"; depe
ndent variable of smoking abstinence. Most research in this area does not u
se a randomised design so only a small proportion of the originally identif
ied studies were included.
Data synthesis-In view of the diverse nature of the studies, a meta-analysi
s was not attempted. Ten studies were identified: nine were clinic based sm
oking trials, eight used a group format, and nine used buddies from among s
mokers' existing relationships. Support training varied from role play and
rehearsal to a simple instruction to call each other regularly. Interventio
n and follow up periods varied between studies. Two studies showed a signif
icant benefit of the intervention in the short term.
Conclusions-Research methodology in many cases was poor. The evidence would
suggest that in the context of a smokers clinic the use of buddies may be
of some benefit. There is a lack of evidence regarding the efficacy of the
use of buddies in community interventions. This is an important area for fu