When Smokers Call Quit Lines, Positive Approach May Be Best

THURSDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Stressing the benefits of not smoking may work better than emphasizing the negative effects of cigarettes in persuading smokers to kick the habit, a new study has found.

Researchers divided 28 specialists working at the New York State Smokers' Quitline into two groups. One group was trained to emphasize the benefits of quitting (gain-framed messages) to smokers, while the other group gave standard-care messaging that focused on the potential losses from smoking and the benefits of quitting.

Between March and June 2008, 813 callers received gain-framed messaging, and 1,222 callers received standard messaging. At two-week follow-up interviews, smokers who received the gain-framed messaging reported more quit attempts and a higher rate of non-smoking than those who received standard-care messaging (about 23% versus 13%).

However, at three months there was no difference between the two groups of callers, according to the study published online Jan. 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The findings should encourage quit lines to test new strategies in an attempt to increase smoking cessation rates, said Benjamin A. Toll, of the psychiatry department at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues, in a news release from the journal's publisher.

"Furthermore, gain-framed statements appear to be somewhat beneficial in enhancing short-term smoking cessation and other secondary outcomes, such as quit attempts and positive health expectancies," the researchers wrote.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, Jan. 7, 2010