Effective, evidence-based training for stop smoking practitioners: the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (UK)

Knowledge is rarely enough on its own to bring about a change in behaviour, either in smokers or health professionals. The National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) recognised that it needed to train practitioners in the competences (knowledge and skills) that would make a significant difference to the smokers they were helping to quit. Although we knew that behavioural support roughly doubled smokers’ chances of success (similar to the effect of medications), we did not know what the ‘active ingredients’ were. This was our first task.

We developed a reliable taxonomy of behavior change techniques used in behavioral support for smoking cessation which can provide a starting point for investigating the association between intervention content and outcome and can form a basis for determining competences required to undertake the role of stop smoking specialist[1].

We then established that it is possible to identify competences recommended for behavioural support for smoking cessation and subsets of these supported by different types of evidence. This approach can form the basis for development of assessment and training of stop smoking specialists[2]. We used the identification of these behaviour change techniques to publish the NCSCT Training Standard that lists core learning objectives for training practitioners to deliver behavioural support to smokers[3].

The NCSCT has published on the validation of its online training programme[4] and we also have evidence that the online training programme significantly improves practitioner knowledge[5]. The NCSCT face-to-face course also significantly improves practitioners’ confidence in their competence to deliver evidence-based behaviour change techniques and this is maintained for at least three months post-course[6].

More on the evidence underpinning the NCSCT activities and on research outputs can be found here: http://www.ncsct.co.uk/pub_research.php

About the Author: Dr Andy McEwen is the Executive Director of the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT)Michie S,


  1. Hyder N, Walia A, West R (2011) Development of a taxonomy of behaviour change techniques used in individual behavioural support for smoking cessation. Addictive Behaviors, 36 (4), 315-319, doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.11.016
  2. Michie S, Churchill S, West R (2011) Identifying evidence-based competences required to deliver behavioural support for smoking cessation. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 41(1), 59-70, doi: 10.1007/s12160-010-9235-z
  3. West, R., Michie, S., Lorencatto, F., Churchill, S. and Willis, N. (2010) NCSCT Training Standard: Learning Outcomes for Training Stop Smoking Practitioners. London, National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT). http://www.ncsct.co.uk/usr/pub/NCSCT%20Training%20Standard.pdf
  4. Brose, L.S., West, R., Michie, S. & McEwen, A (In press) Validation of content of an online knowledge training programme. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, doi: http://ntr.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/11/29/ntr.nts258
  5. Brose, L.S., West, R., Michie, S., Kenyon, J.A.M. & McEwen, A. (2012) Effectiveness of an Online Knowledge Training and Assessment Program for Stop Smoking Practitioners. Nicotine & Tobacco Research 2012; doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntr286
  6. Brose, L.S., Michie, S., West, R. & McEwen, A. (2012) Evaluation of face-to-face courses in behavioural support for Stop-Smoking Practitioners. Journal of Smoking Cessation, 7(1):1-6