Quitline Definitions

What is a quitline?

A quitline is a tobacco cessation service available through a toll-free telephone number that is staffed by counselors who are trained specifically to help smokers quit. Quitlines allow smokers to access many different types of cessation information and services, including:

  • Free support and advice from an experienced cessation counselor;
  • A personalized quit plan and self-help materials;
  • Social support and coping strategies to help the participant deal with cravings;
  • The latest information on cessation medications; and
  • In some instances, over-the-counter nicotine replacement medications (NRT) to help during a quit attempt.

Currently, all states offer some quitline services via a single toll-free portal, 1-800-QUIT-NOW. State quitlines provide different menus of cessation treatment options based on their budgets.

Quitlines play an important role in a comprehensive state tobacco control program, and the evidence suggests that smokers who receive quitline counseling are approximately 60 percent more likely to succeed than smokers who receive minimal or no counseling. Key reports from the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others urge states to provide enough funding to the national quitline network to reach 5-10 percent of smokers annually.

Are Quitlines Cost Effective?

Quitlines are a cost-effective and efficient way to reach a large number of smokers. Studies indicate that for every smoker who quits in response to tobacco control measures, such as through a quitline, total health care costs over the next five years drop, on average, by approximately $2,400. Additionally, quitlines are cost-efficient because they provide economies of scale by serving large numbers of tobacco users. Quitlines are able to offer resources to priority populations such as pregnant women, can deliver services to multi-lingual groups, and make large-scale promotional campaigns more feasible and effective.