Clinical Citations: Smoking cessation: How useful is telephone counseling?

August 1, 2006

Smoking cessation programs have been recognized to benefit from standard clinician intervention and telephone counseling, but what are the comparative benefits of these strategies? Researchers examining the relative benefits of telephone care and clinician intervention found that telephone care leads to higher smoking cessation rates.

Smoking cessation programs have been recognized to benefit from standard clinician intervention and telephone counseling, but what are the comparative benefits of these strategies? Researchers examining the relative benefits of telephone care and clinician intervention found that telephone care leads to higher smoking cessation rates.

In a prospective, randomized, controlled trial, 837 daily smokers from 5 Midwestern Veterans Affairs medical centers were enrolled in 1 of 2 groups. In the telephone care group, 417 persons received behavioral counseling during a minimum of 7 calls over 2 months. Pharmacologic therapy, as indicated, was provided by mail. In the clinician intervention group, 420 persons had access to individual or group smoking cessation services at medical centers; pharmacologic therapy; and self-help materials.

The primary outcome was a self-reported 6-month duration of abstinence 12 months after enrollment. Secondary outcomes were 7-day point prevalence abstinence at 3 and 12 months; participation in counseling; and use of smoking cessation medication.

Using intention-to-treat procedures, researchers found that results in the telephone care and clinician intervention groups, respectively, were 39.6% versus 10.1% for the rate of abstinence over 7 days at 3 months; 13.0% versus 4.1% for the 6-month abstinence rate after 12 months; and 97.1% versus 24.0% for the rate of participation in counseling programs. These findings may contribute to the formulation or adaptation of evidence-based treatment programs for smoking cessation.