While practices have changed significantly over the years, two decades of studying quit smoking phone support services ('quitlines') has resulted in ample data to conclude they are both effective and cost-effective smoking cessation interventions.
A number of studies examining the effectiveness of phone support programs have been published, and all of them have found that phone support programs are effective at helping smokers in their quit attempts.
- 2009 analysis of decades of data concludes that Quitlines help smokers quit.
In 2009, a Cochrane review pooled the results from 44 trials comparing proactive telephone counselling to little or no counselling. The study concluded that telephone counselling is an effective smoking cessation support. At six month follow-up those receiving the intervention, a total of 12,388 participants, were approximately 29% more likely to be successful in their quit attempts than those who did not receive telephone counselling. Actual quit rates varied depending on the protocols used and additional interventions.
Stead LF, Perera R, Lancaster T. Telephone counselling for smoking cessation (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration. 2009
- 2008 clinical practice guidelines recommend using telephone counselling.
The United States Department of Health and Human services assessed the evidence for the effectiveness of Quitlines and determined they were effective smoking cessation interventions, grouping Quitline counselling with various types of face-to-face counselling.
Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. US Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville MD, May 2008
- 2007 study shows Quitline success is linked to number of counselling calls.
In a large study including a total of 6,564 callers to the American Cancer Society's National Cancer Information Center, 30-day point prevalence quit rates at seven month follow-up were 11% for those receiving phone counselling compared to 8% of those who received only mailed self-help materials (P < 0.005). The study found evidence of a dose-response relationship, with participants receiving at least five calls from counsellors more likely to successfully quit than those randomized to the protocol with only three calls.
Rabius V, Pike KJ, Hunter J, Wiatrek D, McAlister AL. Effects of frequency and duration in telephone counselling for smoking cessation. Tobacco Control 2007;16 Suppl 1:i71–4.
- 2002 study shows Quitlines can almost double success rates.
Studies exploring the effectiveness of Quitlines have consistently shown impressive results. In 2002, a trial with 3,282 participants published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated a 6-month abstinence rate for the intervention group of 12.8% compared to 8.6% in the control group (P < 001). Further analysis revealed that participants that actually used the counselling service were almost twice as likely to quit as those who did not.
Zhu SH, Anderson CM, Tedeschi GJ, Rosbrook B, Johnson CE, Byrd M, et al. Evidence of real-world effectiveness of a telephone quitline for smokers. New England Journal of Medicine 2002;347 (14):1087–93.
- 2012 study shows Quitlines are accessed by smokers with chronic diseases.
In a demographic analysis of 195,057 tobacco users who enrolled with one of 15 state Quitlines between 2005 and 2008, 32.3% reported having at least one chronic illness. A seven-month follow-up survey of 3,250 of these smokers showed that 21.6% of those with diabetes and 19.7% of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) had quit smoking.
Bush T, Zbikowski S, Mahoney L, Deprey M, Mowery P, Cerutti B. State Quitlines and Cessation Patterns Among Adults With Selected Chronic Diseases in 15 States, 2005–2008. Prev Chronic Dis. 2012; 9: E163.