Aims: The development of acceptable, widely available and effective smoking cessation methods is central to public health strategy for tobacco control. We examined the effectiveness of a telephone callback counselling intervention, compared to the provision of self-help resources alone.
Methods: Participants were 998 smokers calling a state-wide "Quitline" service randomly allocated to either callback counselling or ordinary care. The callback condition consisted of a series of brief counselling calls at strategic times in addition to ordinary care. The number of calls varied according to caller needs, and most occurred generally just before the person's quit day and in the week or two after it. The service was delivered by trained telephone counsellors.
Results: At the 3-month follow-up, significantly more participants in the callback group (24%) reported that they were quit, compared to those in the usual care comparison group (13%). The difference in point prevalence of smoking declined to 6% by the 12-month follow-up. Using sustained abstinence there was a significant benefit of callback counselling at 12-month follow-up. Treating dropouts as smokers reduced the overall magnitude of the effects somewhat. The benefit of callbacks was to marginally increase quit attempts and to significantly reduce relapse.
Conclusion: Our findings are consistent with those of other studies demonstrating benefits of callback telephone counselling to facilitate cessation. Such counselling provides a flexible, relatively inexpensive and widely available form of cessation service. It appears to encourage a greater proportion of quit attempts and to reduce the rate of relapse among those quitting. Further research is required to determine ways to enhance effectiveness, particularly studies of how to reduce relapse.