Telephone Smoking-Cessation Counseling for Smokers in Mental Health Clinics

A Patient-Randomized Controlled Trial
Published:December 17, 2015DOI:


      People with a mental health diagnosis have high rates of tobacco use and encounter limited availability of tobacco treatment targeted to their needs. This study compared the effectiveness of a specialized telephone smoking-cessation intervention developed for mental health patients with standard state quit-line counseling.




      The study was conducted at six Veterans Health Administration facilities in the Northeast U.S. Participants were 577 mental health clinic patients referred by their providers for smoking-cessation treatment.


      From 2010 to 2012, the study implemented a telephone program that included patient referral from a mental health provider, mailed cessation medications, and telephone counseling. Participants were randomized to receive a specialized multisession telephone counseling protocol (n=270) or transfer to their state’s quit-line for counseling (n=307).

      Main outcome measures

      Participants completed telephone surveys at baseline, 2 months, and 6 months. The study’s primary outcome was self-reported 30-day abstinence at 6 months. Secondary outcomes were self-reported 30-day abstinence, counseling satisfaction and counseling content at 2 months, and self-reported use of cessation treatment and quit attempts at 6 months. Logistic regression was used to compare treatment groups on outcomes, controlling for baseline cigarettes per day and site. Inverse probability weighting and multiple imputation were used to handle missing abstinence outcomes. Data were analyzed in 2014−2015.


      At 6 months, participants in the specialized counseling arm were more likely to report 30-day abstinence (26% vs 18%, OR=1.62, 95% CI=1.24, 2.11). There was no significant group difference in abstinence at 2 months (18% vs 14%, OR=1.31, 95% CI=0.49, 3.49). Participants in the specialized arm were more likely to be assisted with developing a quit plan; receive follow-up calls after quitting; and receive counseling on several domains, including motivation, confidence, smoking triggers, coping with urges, and mental health symptoms (all p<0.05). Specialized counseling participants were more satisfied with treatment and more likely to find the counseling useful (p<0.05).


      The specialized counseling intervention was more effective at helping patients quit than transfer to a state quit-line. Patients were more satisfied with the specialized counseling program.

      Trial registration

      This study is registered at NCT00724308.
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