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Impact of a telephone helpline for smokers who called during a mass media campaign
  1. Lesley Owen
  1. Health Education Authority, Trevelyan House, London, UK
  1. Dr Lesley Owen, Senior Research Manager, Health Education Authority, Trevelyan House, 30 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 2HW, UK;lesley.owen{at}


OBJECTIVE To evaluate the impact of a telephone helpline (Quitline) with additional support (written information) on callers who use the service during a mass media campaign.

DESIGN Telephone recall surveys of callers to the helpline carried out two months and one year after their initial call.

SETTING Telephone helpline.

SUBJECTS Callers to the helpline.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Smoking behaviour change among callers to the helpline at two months and one year.

RESULTS At one year 22% (95% confidence interval (CI) 18.4% to 25.6%) of smokers reported that they had stopped smoking. Assuming that those who refuse to take part in the one year follow up are continuing smokers and a further 20% of reported successes fail biochemical validation, this yields an adjusted quit rate of 15.6% (95% CI 12.7% to 18.9%) at one year. Among ex-smokers, 41% (95% CI 34.3% to 47.7%) reported that they were still not smoking at one year. The adjusted figure for ex-smokers at one year is 29% (95% CI 23.3% to 34.8%). Of those who resumed smoking 28% were smoking less than they had been initially. Currently Quitline receives around half a million calls in the course of one year, 93% of whom are phoning for themselves. This represents 4.2% of the total population of adults smokers in England.

CONCLUSION The Health Education Authority's advertising campaign was extremely successful in generating calls to the helpline. Very large numbers of smokers from diverse backgrounds, including the key groups highlighted in the UK government's recent proposals on tobacco, called the Quitline, which appeared to be very successful in helping these callers to stop smoking. For a single intervention to reach 4.2% of the total population of adult smokers in England is a major achievement. This makes Quitline a very promising model for public health intervention programs.

  • telephone helpline
  • smoking cessation

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