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Factors related to abstinence in a telephone helpline for smoking cessation

Ásgeir R. Helgason, Tanja Tomson, Karl E. Lund, Rosaria Galanti, Staffan Ahnve, Hans Gilljam
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/14.3.306 306-310 First published online: 1 September 2004


Background: Studies indicate that shortage of cessation counsellors may be a major barrier for tobacco prevention among physicians. Telephone helplines (quitlines) may be an option. The effectiveness of the Swedish quitline and factors related to abstinence from smoking 12 months after the first contact were assessed. Method: Subjects included 694 smokers calling a reactive (no contact initiated by the counsellors) and 900 smokers calling a proactive (four or five contacts initiated by the counsellors after the first call) quitline for smoking cessation. The subjects were followed up 12 months after the first call using a mailed questionnaire assessing current abstinence, stages of change and factors potentially related to abstinence rates. Results: The questionnaire was returned by 70% of the subjects. Women receiving the proactive treatment reported 34% abstinence rates compared with 27% for those receiving the reactive treatment (p=0.03). For men the abstinence rates were 27% and 28%, respectively (p=0.80). Factors significantly related to abstinence in the adjusted analysis included no nicotine use at base-line, the adjusted odds ratio with 95% confidence interval being 6.4 (2.1–19.4), additional support from a health care professional 3.5 (1.0–12.3), additional social support 3.1 (1.6–6.1), stress or depressive mood 2.7 (1.6–4.7), nicotine replacement therapy for five weeks or more 2.1 (1.1–4.0), and exposure to second-hand smoke 1.9 (1.1–3.3). The use of oral tobacco did not significantly increase current abstinence. Conclusion: Quitlines are effective as an adjunct to the health care system. For women a proactive treatment may be more effective than a reactive treatment.

  • helpline, quitline, smokeless tobacco, smoking cessation, snus, stage of change

Received 15 January 2003. Accepted 29 April 2003.