University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Crowdsourced peer- versus expert-written smoking-cessation messages

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Smoking Cessation


Health Communication | Health Information Technology | Health Services Administration | Substance Abuse and Addiction


BACKGROUND: Tailored, web-assisted interventions can reach many smokers. Content from other smokers (peers) through crowdsourcing could enhance relevance.

PURPOSE: To evaluate whether peers can generate tailored messages encouraging other smokers to use a web-assisted tobacco intervention (

METHODS: Phase 1: In 2009, smokers wrote messages in response to scenarios for peer advice. These smoker-to-smoker (S2S) messages were coded to identify themes. Phase 2: resulting S2S messages, and comparison expert messages, were then e-mailed to newly registered smokers. In 2012, subsequent visits following S2S or expert-written e-mails were compared.

RESULTS: Phase 1: a total of 39 smokers produced 2886 messages (message themes: attitudes and expectations, improvements in quality of life, seeking help, and behavioral strategies). For not-ready-to-quit scenarios, S2S messages focused more on expectations around a quit attempt and how quitting would change an individual's quality of life. In contrast, for ready-to-quit scenarios, S2S messages focused on behavioral strategies for quitting. Phase 2: In multivariable analysis, S2S messages were more likely to generate a return visit (OR=2.03, 95% CI=1.74, 2.35), compared to expert messages. A significant effect modification of this association was found, by time-from-registration and message codes (both interaction terms p

CONCLUSIONS: S2S peer messages that increased longitudinal engagement in a web-assisted tobacco intervention were successfully collected and delivered. S2S messages expanded beyond the biomedical model to enhance relevance of messages.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered at NCT00797628 (web-delivered provider intervention for tobacco control [QUIT-PRIMO]) and NCT01108432 (DPBRN Hygienists Internet Quality Improvement in Tobacco Cessation [HiQuit]).


UMCCTS funding

DOI of Published Version



Coley HL, Sadasivam RS, Williams JH, Volkman JE, Schoenberger YM, Kohler CL, Sobko H, Ray MN, Allison JJ, Ford DE, Gilbert GH, Houston TK; National Dental PBRN and QUITPRIMO Collaborative Group. Crowdsourced peer- versus expert-written smoking-cessation messages. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Nov;45(5):543-50. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2013.07.004. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American journal of preventive medicine

PubMed ID