OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the relative effectiveness of two self-help smoking interventions as adjuncts to a self-help manual and telephone support service (hotline) for older smokers. DESIGN: Subjects were stratified on baseline variables and randomised to one of two treatment conditions in a methods development study. SUBJECTS: 177 community-dwelling smokers aged 60 years and older. INTERVENTIONS: All subjects received a self-help manual and access to a smokers' telephone hotline. Subjects also received either mailings (Letters condition) or counselling telephone calls (Proactive condition) at four and eight weeks after enrollment. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Use of the hotline and prevalence of abstinence lasting at least 48 hours (verified by a "significant other") were assessed at three and six months for the full sample. Seven-day abstinence was calculated for comparison with previous research. A subsample of 91 subjects was followed up at 12 months. RESULTS: Overall abstinence rates for the two conditions were in the range of typical self-help interventions. Men were more likely to be abstinent than women at follow up at three and six months. A significant gender x treatment interaction was found, with abstinence rates higher for men in the Letters condition, and women in the Proactive condition. Hotline use was high, with nearly half of subjects calling by 12 months. CONCLUSION: Both interventions appear promising for older smokers, but may be differentially effective for men and women. Older smokers will use a hotline; whether Letters and Proactive interventions can improve on manual and hotline effectiveness rates alone is being tested in a subsequent controlled trial.
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