Study: Quitline Can Benefit Smokers w Psychiatric Disabilities

"Quitline" Use Can Benefit Smokers with Serious Mental Illness,

UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Research Finds

October 10, 2012


NEW BRUNSWICK - Tobacco use exerts a particularly devastating toll on persons with serious mental illness. But telephone counseling, or “Quitlines,” can be particularly helpful for individuals in this group, according to research presented recently by Marc L. Steinberg, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.


“Individuals with chronic mental illness tend to die 25 years earlier than the general population and much of that disparity can be traced to the fact that this population consumes 44 percent of all cigarettes in the United States,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Quitlines represent an effective approach to helping these individuals quit smoking that overcomes several common barriers faced by those with serious mental illness.”

To examine the perceived benefits and barriers of a telephone Quitline for smokers with serious mental illness, Dr. Steinberg and UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School colleague Donna Drummond, MS, LPC, CTSS, conducted focus groups involving smokers with serious mental illness and with staff members of mental health programs. The results, which were presented recently at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Kansas City, MO, indicated that smokers with serious mental illness and the staff members who work with them recognize many strengths and challenges of a telephone Quitline for smokers with serious mental illness.

“The Quitline approach overcomes transportation and cost barriers for smokers with serious mental illness and that’s a great benefit,” Dr. Steinberg said. “Unfortunately, there are other barriers that may be unique to this population. For example, several of the smokers with serious mental illness did not like the idea of a ‘Quit Coach’ calling them on their phones. They wanted to be the ones to initiate the calls and were uneasy with the idea of being re-contacted.”

Mental health staff members also reported that many patients tend to be protective of their limited cell phone minutes and would be concerned about using up their minutes on the QuitLine. Dr. Steinberg believes that these barriers can be overcome relatively easily by arranging for calls at times when the patient has access to a landline number and can conduct the calls in private. According to Dr. Steinberg, many of the identified barriers to the QuitLine are addressable and information on how that can be accomplished is available at He also notes that smokers looking for free support in quitting smoking may call the New Jersey QuitLine at-1-866-657-8677.

Dr. Steinberg’s research was supported by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Health Office of Tobacco Control.