Intervention With Brief Cessation Advice Plus Active Referral for Proactively Recruited Community Smokers: A Pragmatic Cluster Randomized Clinical Trial

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Most smoking cessation (SC) clinics are costly, passive, and underused.


To compare the SC effect of a combined intervention involving brief, model-guided SC advice plus active referral to SC services (active referral group) with those of brief, model-guided SC advice only (brief advice group) and general SC advice only (control group).

Design, Setting, and Participants

A single-blind, 3-arm, pragmatic cluster randomized clinical trial was conducted including 1226 adult daily smokers in the general Hong Kong community proactively recruited to participate in the Quit-to-Win Contest held in 2015. The study was conducted from June 20 to September 24, 2015. Participants were randomly allocated to the active referral (n = 402), brief advice (n = 416), and control (n = 408) groups. Intention-to-treat analysis was used.


Brief telephone counseling was offered to the active referral and brief advice groups at 1 and 2 months. Interventions were delivered by SC ambassadors who had undergone a short training period.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary outcome was the self-reported past 7-day point prevalence of abstinence (PPA) at 6 months. The secondary outcomes were carbon monoxide level–validated abstinence, smoking reduction, and SC service use.


Participants included 991 (80.8%) men; mean (SD) age was 42.0 (14.8) years. The response rate was 68.2% at 3 and 72.3% at 6 months. The corresponding PPAs were 18.9% and 17.2% in the active referral group—higher than in the brief advice (8.9% and 9.4%; both P ≤ .001) or control (14.0% and 11.5%; P = .03 at 6 months) groups. Compared with the other 2 groups, the active referral group had significantly higher validated abstinence rates (10.2% at 3 months and 9.0% at 6 months, all P < .05) with odds ratios of 2.84 (95% CI, 1.57-5.15) and 2.61 (95% CI, 1.46-4.68) at 3 months, and 1.85 (95% CI, 1.06-3.23) and 1.81 (95% CI, 1.04-3.16) at 6 months in the brief advice and control groups, respectively. The SC service use rate was significantly higher in the active referral group (25.1%) than in either brief advice (2.4%) or control (3.4%) groups at 6 months (P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance

An intervention involving brief advice and active referral delivered to smokers in the community by volunteers can increase quitting in places where SC services are available but underused.

Trial Registration Identifier: NCT02539875

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