Telephone counseling for smoking cessation: rationales and meta-analytic review of evidence

Health Educ Res. 1996 Jun;11(2):243-57. doi: 10.1093/her/11.2.243.


We review the various ways in which telephone counseling has been used in smoking cessation programs. Reactive approaches--help lines or crisis lines--attract only a small percentage of eligible smokers but are sensitive to promotional campaigns. While difficult to evaluate, they appear to be efficacious and useful as a public intervention for large populations. Proactive phone counseling has been used in a variety of ways. In 13 randomized trials, most showed significant short-term (3-6 month) effects, and four found substantial long-term differences between intervention and control conditions. A meta-analysis of proactive studies using a best-evidence synthesis confirmed a significant increase in cessation rates compared with control conditions [pooled odds ratios of 1.34 (1.19-1.51) and 1.20 (1.06-1.37) at short- and long-term follow-up, respectively]. Proactive phone counseling appeared most effective when used as the sole intervention modality or when augmenting programs initiated in hospital settings. Suggestions for further research and utilization are offered.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Hotlines*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Odds Ratio
  • Program Evaluation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*