The 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline is a US national router number open to anyone over the age of 18. Calls are automatically redirected to a quit-line in your state. At the end of the line is an individual who has been specifically trained to help people to quit smoking… and to stay that way. Sounds great. But, opinion is divided about how effective, or otherwise, the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline has been and is.
The case for the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline
The Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC) is so convinced of the value and effectiveness of the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline that they have produced a “small, plastic card the size of a credit card to help promote the national quitline” which they sell to cover printing and shipping costs.
This initiative appears, according to a survey carried out by SCLC, to have assisted organizations that help or encourage patients to quit. For example, medical and health care practices have invested in these cards to give to patients who smoke.
Another organization that gives the national quit smoking line the thumbs up is Tobacco Free Kids. They make the point that, “Some people can quit cold turkey. But most people benefit from some type of support in their quit efforts”.
Tobacco Free Kids specifically discuss the quit-line in Pennsylvania but much of what they say applies to most states. The service offers callers multiple sessions, unlimited inbound calls, and personalized plans to quit smoking. Some centers mail out information packs.
According to a report published by the Surgeon General in 2008, “quitline counseling can more than double a smoker’s chances of quitting”. Combining counselling and aids such as patches triples success rates. Those are impressive figures that seem to indicate that these quit-lines are really valuable and making a significant contribution to getting the US public to throw away their cigarettes for good.
National quit-lines are accessible to a large number of tobacco users 24/7, cost effective and free. Additional benefits are that they can put callers in touch with other cessation resources and offer support for smokers and health care practitioners in their efforts to get patients to quit.
A case against the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline
On the flip-side there are those that think these hotlines are not valuable. John R. Polito, a nicotine cessation educator, published an article in 2012 titled, “Potent warnings, horrible quitting advice: what’s the CDC smoking?” He states that, “The national 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline number routes callers to the quitline service provider who has contracted with each state. Consistent with CDC quitting policy, the primary counseling script objective is to get callers to use the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, spray, inhaler, Zyban or Chantix”.
He goes on to say that the so-called free “medicine” callers receive is not free because they are actually paid for by taxpayers. Polito also makes claims that, in addition to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Free & Fair and the American Cancer Society have sold out to the big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. He announces that, “[In] A stroke of corporate genius, thousands of federal and state health care workers were instantly and permanently transformed into pharmaceutical industry quitting product salesmen.”
Is the argument against the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline by Polito and others compelling or does it smack of conspiracy theory? It does seem that going cold turkey is still the best route to take. However, there’s no reason why this strategy can’t be what a counsellor at 1-800-QUIT-NOW recommends and assists with.
The bottom line
A very large number of smokers have found the quit-line really helpful. But, is what Polito and co. say even relevant in relation to the core question, “Does the 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline help people to quit?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes”.
If quitting is THE brass ring then are other factors as significant in light of that?