To evaluate the effect of proactive and reactive telephone support via helplines and in other settings to help smokers quit. SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group trials register for studies using free text term 'telephone*' or the keywords 'telephone counselling' or 'Hotlines' or 'Telephone' . Date of the most recent search: March 2009.
Telephone services can provide information and support for smokers. Counselling may be provided proactively or offered reactively to callers to smoking cessation helplines.
Randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials in which proactive or reactive telephone counselling to assist smoking cessation was offered to smokers or recent quitters.
Trials were identified and data extracted by one person (LS) and checked by a second (TL). The main outcome measure was the risk ratio for abstinence from smoking after at least six months follow up. We selected the strictest measure of abstinence, using biochemically validated rates where available. We considered participants lost to follow up to be continuing smokers. Where trials had more than one arm with a less intensive intervention we used only the most similar intervention without the telephone component as the control group in the primary analysis. We assessed statistical heterogeneity amongst subgroups of clinically comparable studies using the I² statistic. Where appropriate, we pooled studies using a fixed-effect model. A meta-regression was used to investigate the effect of differences in planned number of calls.
Results of the review
Sixty-five trials met the inclusion criteria. Among smokers who contacted helplines, quit rates were higher for groups randomized to receive multiple sessions of proactive counselling (nine studies, >24,000 participants, risk ratio (RR) for cessation at longest follow up 1.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.26 to 1.50). There was mixed evidence about whether increasing the number of calls altered quit rates but most trials used more than two calls. Two studies comparing different counselling approaches during a single quitline contact did not detect significant differences. Of three studies that provided access to a hotline two detected a significant benefit and one did not.Telephone counselling not initiated by calls to helplines also increased quitting (44 studies, >24,000 participants, RR 1.29, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.38). In the subgroup of studies offering 1-2 calls the effect was small and not significant.A further seven studies were too diverse to contribute to meta-analyses and are discussed separately.
Proactive telephone counselling helps smokers interested in quitting. There is some evidence of a dose response; one or two brief calls are less likely to provide a measurable benefit. Three or more calls increase the chances of quitting compared to a minimal intervention such as providing standard self-help materials, brief advice, or compared to pharmacotherapy alone. Telephone quitlines provide an important route of access to support for smokers, and call-back counselling enhances their usefulness. IS TELEPHONE COUNSELLING EFFECTIVE AS PART OF A PROGRAMME HELP PEOPLE STOP SMOKING: Smoking contributes to many health problems including cancers and heart and lung diseases. People trying to quit smoking can be helped with medication or through behavioural support such as specialist counselling and group therapy. Support, information and counselling are offered either face-to-face or by telephone. Counselling via telephone hotlines can be provided as part of a programme or separately, and can potentially reach large numbers of people. Our review of trials found telephone counselling to be effective; multiple sessions are likely to be most helpful .
Stead Lindsay F, Perera Rafael, Lancaster Tim. Telephone counselling for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Reviews 2006; Issue 3
Database entry date
This is an abstract for a Cochrane review