Much greater investment is needed in actively recruiting smokers to telephone counselling quitlines if smoking rates are to decline significantly.
A University of Newcastle study has demonstrated that active recruitment via phone calls connects a far greater proportion of smokers to quitlines than passive recruitment methods including quit smoking posters and television advertisements.
The study found that quitlines work in helping smokers quit, however only four per cent of Australian smokers seek this type of support through their own initiative after seeing a poster or television advertisement.
“The study demonstrates that more investment in active recruitment would likely lead to a larger proportion of smokers using the quitline service,” University of Newcastle’s Dr Flora Tzelepis said.
Around 19 per cent of Australians are currently smokers. In 2004-2005 tobacco use was responsible for more than $600 million in hospital costs.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, analysed 24 previous studies of proactive telephone counselling, a system where smokers are regularly contacted by the quitline for advice and support.
Researchers discovered that proactive telephone counselling helped smokers to quit the habit in the long run, regardless of how they were recruited.
“The research also found that quitlines had a significantly positive effect on prolonged and continuous abstinence from smoking after 6-9 months and after 12-18 months,” Dr Tzelepis said.
“Our findings have strengthened the support for proactive telephone counselling for smoking cessation. A key to reducing smoking rates is to connect more smokers with this service by targeting them directly,” she said.
Researchers also noted that smokers who responded to advertisements and other passive recruitment efforts were more motivated to quit but were also more addicted compared to actively-recruited smokers.
For interviews with Dr Flora Tzelepis, telephone Carmen Swadling, Media and Public Relations, 02 4985 4276 or 0428 038 477.
For pdf versions of the study: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/jnci/press_releases/tzelepisdjr169.pdf