U.S. Quitlines at a Crossroads

What if proven, effective smoking cessations methods were widely available, but the majority of smokers never tried them out? That’s the reality that key tobacco cessation experts have confronted in the last few years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 43.4 million smokers in the U.S., of which 70 percent say they want to quit and 40 percent say they make at least one serious quit attempt each year. But data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finds that most smokers who try to quit don’t use proven treatments that could double or triple their chance at successfully quitting tobacco.

“Reaching more smokers, and especially the most underserved, with effective treatments represents an enormous untapped opportunity for reducing the nation’s adult tobacco use—the single greatest cause of preventable death and disease, and a major source of health care burden and disparities,” said C. Tracy Orleans, Ph.D., senior scientist for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Reaching these smokers was the goal behind the National Tobacco Cessation Collaborative (NTCC). The NTCC, formed in 2005, is supported by the leading funders of tobacco control advocacy and research in the U.S., including the American Cancer Society, the Legacy Foundation, the CDC, National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that most smokers who try to quit don’t use proven treatments that could double or triple their chance at success. To address this problem, the National Tobacco Cessation Collaborative (NTCC)’s Consumer Demand Roundtable has identified innovative strategies to substantially increase the demand for, and use of, evidence-based products and services to help people quit smoking.

The NTCC is supported by the leading funders of tobacco control advocacy and research in the U.S., including the American Cancer Society, the Legacy Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The NTCC and its consumer-demand initiative are managed by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) in Washington, D.C. “Our focus was on all smokers, but particularly on underserved low-income and racial/ethnic populations where tobacco use is highest and treatment useis lowest,” says Todd Phillips, M.P.A., of the AED.

Tobacco control experts say opportunities to help smokers quit have been enhanced by the 2009 law authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products and their marketing. “The law gives us an unprecedented opportunity to integrate public health and clinical approaches, and unleash the previously untapped potential to apply a consumer perspective and a comprehensive systems integrative strategy to increase treatment use and decrease tobacco use,” says David Abrams, Ph.D., executive director of the Steven A. Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the Legacy Foundation, and professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Abrams is also a Roundtable member.