In 1992, after research demonstrated telephone-based counseling for tobacco cessation an effective treatment, the California Department of Health launched the first statewide telephone counseling service to help smokers quit. By mid-1990’s, Massachusetts, Arizona and Oregon had launched quitlines. The number of states and provinces in North America offering quitline services for smokers and other tobacco-users increased exponentially in the late 1990’s. In the U.S., this increase in quitlines was driven, in large part, by the influx of funds from the states’ Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry. In Canada, a six-province pilot study funded by Health Canada helped drive adoption of this new intervention. Today, 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam and all 10 Canadian provinces provide tobacco cessation services to their residents through local quitlines. In Mexico, a national quitline was launched in October 2007.
The idea for a North American Quitline Consortium was presented as a recommendation during a meeting on telephone-based tobacco cessation counseling convened in Scottsdale, Arizona in the spring of 2002. As a next step, two planning processes – one to develop a minimal data set for evaluating quitlines and one to establish the mission and structure for NAQC– were undertaken by the Center for Tobacco Cessation (at the American Cancer Society) in the summer of 2003. The American Cancer Society (ACS), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Health Canada funded this work. In March 2004, NAQC launched full-scale activities as a special program within the American Legacy Foundation. NAQC then incorporated as a non-profit organization in April 2006.
Prior to NAQC’s existence, no forum existed for communication between quitline professionals in North America, and there were few opportunities for professional development. Today, NAQC is nearly 400 members strong and is recognized as a trusted neutral body for convening stakeholders, brokering issues and moving the field forward. As an organization, it is practice-driven, evidence-based and results-focused. NAQC seeks to focus on the shared vision and common agenda of all stakeholders, which often transcend their national origins. Through its history, NAQC has created a vibrant community of practice among quitline stakeholders.