The effectiveness of telephone counselling and internet- and text-message-based support for smoking cessation: results from a randomized controlled trial

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To compare the effectiveness of proactive telephone counselling, reactive telephone counselling and an internet- and text-message-based intervention with a self-help booklet for smoking cessation.


A randomized controlled trial with equal allocation to four conditions: (1) proactive telephone counselling (n = 452), (2) reactive telephone counselling (n = 453), (3) internet- and text-message-based intervention (n = 453) and (4) self-help booklet (control) (n = 452).




Smokers who had participated previously in two national health surveys were invited. Eligibility criteria were daily cigarette smoking, age ≥ 16 years, having a mobile phone and e-mail address.


Primary outcome was prolonged abstinence to 12 months from the end of the intervention period.


At 12-month follow-up, higher prolonged abstinence was found in the proactive telephone counselling group compared with the booklet group [7.3 versus 3.6%, odds ratio (OR) = 2.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.2–4.0]. There was no clear evidence of a difference in prolonged abstinence between the reactive telephone counselling group or the internet-based smoking cessation program and the booklet group: 1.8 versus 3.6%, OR = 0.8, 95% CI = 0.6–1.2 and 5.3 versus 3.6%, OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 0.8–3.0, respectively. In the proactive telephone counselling group, the cost per additional 12-month quitter compared with the booklet group was £644.


Proactive telephone counselling was more effective than a self-help booklet in achieving prolonged abstinence for 12 months. No clear evidence of an effect of reactive telephone counselling or the internet- and text-message-based intervention was found compared with the self-help booklet.

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