Cover Story

Researcher Thomas Brandon, PhD, of the University of South Florida, has developed a smoking-cessation intervention that he hopes HMOs will pick up on.

In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute, Brandon and his colleagues tested two interventions with people who had quit smoking: sending the ex-smokers eight "Stay Quit" booklets over the course of a year that encouraged people to stay off of nicotine, and offering use of a 24-hour hot line. A third group received both interventions, and a fourth, serving as a control, received only one booklet.

Those who received the eight booklets were far more likely to stay off tobacco a year later than those in the hot-line condition, the team found.

Of recent quitters who received the eight booklets, only 12 percent had returned to smoking by the end of the year, compared to 35 percent of those who received only the single booklet. Those in the hot-line condition did no better than those in the control condition. Those who received both the booklets and the hot line were no more likely to stay off cigarettes than those who had received the booklets alone, further shoring up the significance of the multiple-booklet condition, according to the study, which appeared in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Vol. 68, p. 10-113).

The cost-effectiveness of the booklet intervention was impressive: a mere $126 for producing a year of abstinence, compared to the $2,000 to $4,000 per year for traditional cessation-focused interventions.

Brandon is hopeful that his findings will translate into practice.

"It's just an intellectual exercise to conduct a study like this unless the intervention can be disseminated," he says. "We're hoping we can convince HMOs or health-related agencies and foundations to take this and use it."