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UCSD study shows smokers' quitlines work

Phone-based smoking cessation programs, called quitlines, are cropping up all over the United States and in other countries. But are they doing any good? Is the intervention effect demonstrated in clinical trials translating to real-world service settings?

New findings drawn from the statewide California Smokers' Helpline by cancer prevention researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) suggest these programs are effective. This research is reported in the October 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In 1990, UCSD Cancer Center researchers started a clinical trial on telephone counseling for smoking cessation. The results were so encouraging that in 1992 the California Department of Health Services decided to make it a statewide service. The California Smokers' Helpline was the first statewide quitline funded by a state health department.

Today, 33 states in the U.S. have established similar quitlines. Many large managed care organizations have also set up systemwide quitlines to help their members. The new U.S. Public Health Service Clinical Guidelines (2000) recommend the use of quitlines, following extensive review of the clinical trials on telephone counseling.

"Positive results from clinical trials got people excited about starting new quitlines. And some of the early quitlines have done a good job reaching large number of smokers, in particular underserved populations," said the study's lead author, Shu-Hong Zhu, Ph.D., director of the California Smokers' Helpline and a member of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center. "But it's important to know whether real-world quitline services are able to maintain the effectiveness found in clinical trials, especially since there's a significant and growing public investment in this type of service."

Zhu explained that treatments proven in clinical trials sometimes fail in practice because of possible changes in the conditions under which the or
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Contact: Nancy Stringer
nstringer@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
2-Oct-2002


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