Objectives Active telephone recruitment (‘cold calling’) can enrol almost 45 times more smokers to cessation services than media. However, the effectiveness of proactive telephone counselling with cold-called smokers from the broader community is unknown. This study examined whether proactive telephone counselling improved abstinence, quit attempts and reduced cigarette consumption among cold-called smokers.
Methods From 48 014 randomly selected electronic telephone directory numbers, 3008 eligible smokers were identified and 1562 (51.9%) smokers recruited into the randomised controlled trial. Of these, 769 smokers were randomly allocated to proactive telephone counselling and 793 to the control (ie, mailed self-help) conditions. Six counselling calls were offered to intervention smokers willing to quit within a month and four to those not ready to quit. The 4-month, 7-month and 13-month follow-up interviews were completed by 1369 (87.6%), 1278 (81.8%) and 1245 (79.9%) participants, respectively.
Results Proactive telephone counselling participants were significantly more likely than controls to achieve 7-day point prevalence abstinence at 4 months (13.8% vs 9.6%, p=0.005) and 7 months (14.3% vs 11.0%, p=0.02) but not at 13 months. There was a significant impact of telephone counselling on prolonged abstinence at 4 months (3.4% vs 1.8%, p=0.02) and at 7 months (2.2% vs 0.9%, p=0.02). At 4 months post recruitment, telephone counselling participants were significantly more likely than controls to have made a quit attempt (48.6% vs 42.9%, p=0.01) and reduced cigarette consumption (16.9% vs 9.0%, p=0.0002).
Conclusions Proactive telephone counselling initially increased abstinence and quitting behaviours among cold-called smokers. Given its superior reach, quitlines should consider active telephone recruitment, provided relapse can be reduced.
Trial registration Australian New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry; ACTRN012606000221550.
- Telephone counselling
- smoking cessation
- randomised controlled trial
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Funding Funding was received from the Australian Research Council, National Heart Foundation, Hunter New England Population Health and the Cancer Council NSW.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Newcastle Human Research Ethics Committee and the Hunter New England Human Research Ethics Committee.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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