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Tob Control. 2011 Jan;20(1):40-6. doi: 10.1136/tc.2010.035956. Epub 2010 Oct 28.

A randomised controlled trial of proactive telephone counselling on cold-called smokers' cessation rates.

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Centre for Health Research & Psycho-oncology (CHeRP), University of Newcastle, Room 230A, Level 2, David Maddison Building, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.



Active telephone recruitment ('cold calling') can enroll almost 45 times more smokers to cessation services than media. However, the effectiveness of proactive telephone counselling with cold-called smokers from the broader community is unknown. This study examined whether proactive telephone counselling improved abstinence, quit attempts and reduced cigarette consumption among cold-called smokers.


From 48,014 randomly selected electronic telephone directory numbers, 3008 eligible smokers were identified and 1562 (51.9%) smokers recruited into the randomised controlled trial. Of these, 769 smokers were randomly allocated to proactive telephone counselling and 793 to the control (ie, mailed self-help) conditions. Six counselling calls were offered to intervention smokers willing to quit within a month and four to those not ready to quit. The 4-month, 7-month and 13-month follow-up interviews were completed by 1369 (87.6%), 1278 (81.8%) and 1245 (79.9%) participants, respectively.


Proactive telephone counselling participants were significantly more likely than controls to achieve 7-day point prevalence abstinence at 4 months (13.8% vs 9.6%, p=0.005) and 7 months (14.3% vs 11.0%, p=0.02) but not at 13 months. There was a significant impact of telephone counselling on prolonged abstinence at 4 months (3.4% vs 1.8%, p=0.02) and at 7 months (2.2% vs 0.9%, p=0.02). At 4 months post recruitment, telephone counselling participants were significantly more likely than controls to have made a quit attempt (48.6% vs 42.9%, p=0.01) and reduced cigarette consumption (16.9% vs 9.0%, p=0.0002).


Proactive telephone counselling initially increased abstinence and quitting behaviours among cold-called smokers. Given its superior reach, quitlines should consider active telephone recruitment, provided relapse can be reduced.


Australian New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry; ACTRN012606000221550.

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