Phone Counseling May Help Smokers Quit

Getting 3 or More Calls From Counselors With Quit-Smoking Phone Lines Could Help

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on July 18, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

July 18, 2006 -- New research shows that most smokers want to quit smoking, and that getting a little encouragement by phone might help them reach that goal.

A new Gallup poll shows that a quarter of Americans aged 18 and older smoke cigarettes; 75% of them say they want to quit smoking. The poll, conducted by telephone in early July, included a nationally representative sample of about 1,000 adults aged 18 and older.

Three out of four smokers surveyed reported being "addicted" to cigarettes, the poll shows.

It's no secret that quitting smoking can be tough and often takes repeated attempts. The 248 former smokers in the Gallup poll tried to kick the habit about six times, on average.

Getting three or more phone calls from a counselor at a quit-smoking phone line might help, according to a new research review published in The Cochrane Library.

The researchers included Lindsay Stead, MSc, who works in England at the University of Oxford's primary health care department. Stead's team reviewed 48 quit-smoking studies that included telephone counseling to help people quit smoking.

The studies had a combined total of more than 36,000 participants who currently smoked or had recently quit smoking. Most studies were conducted in the U.S. The four exceptions were a Hong Kong study, a New Zealand study, and two British studies.

In most studies, quit-smoking counselors called participants. The counselors didn't wait for the participants to call them. For comparison, some participants didn't get called by the counselors.

The researchers found that participants who got at least three phone calls from a quit-smoking counselor were more likely to be smoke-free for at least six months, compared with those who got no such phone calls.

Getting one or two phone calls from quit-smoking counselors wasn't as helpful, note Stead and colleagues. "Our review of trials found telephone counseling to be effective; multiple sessions are likely to be most helpful," they write.

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SOURCES: Stead, L. The Cochrane Library, 2006; Issue 3. News release, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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