Giving away free nicotine medications and a cigarette substitute (Better Quit) to promote calls to a quitline

J Public Health Manag Pract. Jan-Feb 2006;12(1):60-7. doi: 10.1097/00124784-200601000-00012.


This article presents results from two population-based promotions for free cessation products used to induce smokers to call the New York State Smokers'. The first promotion was a press announcement urging smokers to call the quitline to get a voucher for a free 2-week supply of nicotine patches or gum (nicotine replacement therapy [NRT]). The second promotion involved comparing response to two newspaper advertisements for the quitline, one of which offered a free stop smoking guide and one that offered the guide plus a free stop smoking aide called Better Quit (BQ). Responses to each promotion were monitored by tracking the call volume to the quitline-before, during, and after each of the promotions. The NRT voucher promotion increased median call volume 25-fold compared to prepromotion levels, whereas the BQ newspaper advertisement increased median call volume 2-fold compared to a newspaper advertisement for the quitline, which did not offer BQ. A random sample of 732 smokers who received the free NRT voucher were followed up 4 to 6 months later to determine their use of NRT and smoking behavior. Embedded within this follow-up study was a randomized experiment in which half the smokers were mailed a quit kit with BQ included and the other half received just the quit kit. Seventy percent of follow-up survey respondents said that they had redeemed the NRT voucher and used the medication to try to quit smoking. Twenty-two percent reported they were no longer smoking, compared with the 12 percent among a comparison group of quitline callers who had not received the free NRT voucher (odds ratio = 1.77; 95% confidence interval: 1.17-2.68). There was no difference in quit rates between those that were sent the BQ cigarette substitute and those that did not get the BQ. This study shows that offering a free 2-week voucher for NRT is a cost-effective method to increase calls to a stop smoking quitline and may also increase the odds of quitting for those who get the free NRT.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Hotlines / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York
  • Program Evaluation
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*