The research will be published in the March 13, 2006, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Lawrence C. An, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, and colleagues studied daily smokers who received care at five Veterans Affairs medical centers in the upper Midwest and were committed to quitting within one month.
"The findings suggest that health-care providers should consider adding telephone care to their smoking cessation programs," An said. "With the telephone support, we are able to bring the service to the smokers instead of making them come to us to get help."
The smokers in the study were divided into two groups: one received self-help materials in the mail and had continued access to smoking cessation services as part of routine medical care; the other group received counseling sessions using telephone care, which consisted of seven calls over a two-month period as well as mailing of smoking medications, as appropriate, directly to their homes.
After three months in the study, about 40 percent of the telephone-care group had not smoked in the previous seven days, compared with about 10 percent of the standard- care group. At the one-year mark, 13 percent of the telephone-care group and about 4 percent of the control group had abstained from smoking for the previous six months.
Additionally, compared to the group that received usual care, people who received telephone care were more likely to use other techniques to help them stop smoking, including smoking cessation counseling programs and medication, and made more attempts to quit.
"We were able to make a difference for people in this study because we helped smokers deal with both the habit and the addiction of smoking, and we did it in a way that was convenient for them." An said.
From a national perspective, this study lends support to the idea of a national network of quit lines that would provide both phone counseling and access to free stop-smoking medications to smokers across the country.