Intensive Telephone-Based Counseling can Help Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

Summary: Tobacco smoking is a significant cause of many diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and immune dysfunction, to name a few. Fortunately, smoking rates have declined during the last few decades. This has also resulted in a reduced incidence of lung cancer and many other smoking-associated conditions. Nonetheless, smoking still remains a significant health concern. 12.5% of the population still continues to smoke. Therefore, there is a need to find effective ways to help people quit smoking. One of the good ways to help people is nicotine replacement therapy. However, the new study shows that nicotine replacement therapy is almost twice more effective if combined with intensive telephone-based counseling.

Smoking, particularly tobacco or cigarette smoking, can be pretty harmful to health. It can harm almost every organ of the human body. Thus, no surprise that despite declining smoking rates, about 16 million adults are still living with smoking-related ailments. Smoking is a significant cause of lung cancer, various lung diseases, heart disease, stroke, COPD, immune dysfunction, and more.


Fortunately, people now realize the health risks posed by smoking. This is evident from the falling rates of smoking. Just in the last couple of decades, millions have quit smoking. As a result, smoking rates since 2005 have fallen from 20.9% to 12.5%. This has also helped reduce lung cancer rates significantly and reduce cancer-related mortality. Nonetheless, a considerable population continues to smoke, and thus the need to find ways to reduce smoking rates as further.


Smoking continues to pose a significant health threat


To know how addictive cigarettes are; smoking still continues to kill close to half a million people in the US alone each year. The fight against tobacco is far from over. Therefore, there is a need to find ways to help more and more people quit smoking.


At present, there are many ways to help people quit smoking. One of the well-known and effective ways to reduce or quit smoking is using nicotine-based chewing gums. These gums contain small amounts of nicotine to reduce tobacco craving. These nicotine-containing gums are still harmful to health, but they help.


It appears that in many cases, simple methods work, like practicing relaxation techniques and reminding individuals to quit smoking. The new study shows that reminding people to quit smoking over the telephone may also help. It seems that telephone-based counseling is especially useful when used with other methods like nicotine replacement therapy.


A new study confirms the effectiveness of intensive telephone-based counseling


Recently Georgetown University Medical Center carried out a study in which they explored the role of intensive telephone-based counseling in smoking cessation. It is interestingly studied as it enrolled long-term smokers aged 50-80 years of age. They enrolled 818 habitual smokers in the study. Some people have been smoking for more than ten years.


They randomly divided these individuals into two groups. One group was given nicotine replacement therapy (like nicotine gum, patches, and so on) along with usual health advice. However, another group was given intensive telephone-based counseling along with nicotine replacement therapy.


The researchers were amazed to see that smoking cessation rates were double in those with intensive telephone counseling. In those with regular treatment and counseling, the smoking cessation rate was 7.9% after three months. However, this rate was 14.3% after three months in those who received intensive telephone counseling.


These smoking cessation rates were measured through self-report by the patients. However, researchers also decided to check if patients were telling the truth. Thus, they checked their patients with the help of saliva strips for carbon monoxide to confirm the smoking cessation rates. And they found that though actual smoking cessation rates were a bit lower, in those with intensive telephone counseling, smoking cessation rates were twice as higher than in another group.


This study confirms the benefit of medical counseling and use of telemedicine addiction treatment in smoking cessation. Although one can buy nicotine replacement patches and gums without a doctor’s prescription, this study shows that smoking cessation rates would be much higher in those who would seek medical advice. This highlights the importance of specialized clinics in helping people quit smoking.

Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP

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