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The demographics of help-seeking for smoking cessation in California and the role of the California Smokers’ Helpline
  1. Shu-Hong Zhu,
  2. Bradley Rosbrook,
  3. Christopher Anderson,
  4. Elizabeth Gilpin,
  5. Georgia Sadler,
  6. John P Pierce
  1. Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Shu- Hong Zhu, Cancer Center 0901, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0901, USA


Objective To investigate and compare the demographics of California smokers seeking assistance to quit and those of smokers who called the California Smokers’ Helpline, a large scale state-wide smoking cessation service.

Data sources The 1990, 1992, and 1993 California Tobacco Surveys, and screening interviews conducted with callers to the California Smokers’ Helpline in its first 30 months of operation.

Design For the California Tobacco Surveys, random digit dialled surveys of 24296 California adults in 1990, 8224 in 1992, and 30716 in 1993 were conducted, which included measures of smokers’ attitudes toward their smoking and of their help-seeking behaviour for smoking cessation. In the California Smokers’ Helpline, 23346 adult callers from August 1992 to January 1995 were surveyed. Demographic information was obtained on all surveys.

Main outcome measure Seeking assistance to quit smoking.

Results In the general smoking population, males were less likely to seek help in quitting smoking than females. The youngest group of adult smokers (18-24 years) was least likely to seek help. Hispanic, black and Asian smokers in California were only 40% as likely as white smokers to seek assistance. However, an ethnic breakdown of callers to the California Smokers’ Helpline shows that His- panics were as well represented in that programme as in the smoking population of the state. Blacks were actually over-represented by a factor of 2. The Helpline also attracted younger smokers than those who sought assistance in general. Smokers from rural counties were as likely to call the Helpline as those from urban counties. The former were usually referred by health care providers, whereas the latter most often heard about the Helpline through the mass media.

Conclusions The California Smokers’ Helpline reached an ethnically and geographically representative sample of smokers. It appears suitable as a model for future programmes providing accessible smoking cessation service on a large scale.

  • smoking cessation
  • self-help
  • California Smokers’ Helpline
  • demographics

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