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Knowing what we know now, if we built the quitline cessation service of tomorrow, capable of serving and attracting tobacco users across the whole nation, what would it look like?

Posted By Natalia A. Gromov, Monday, January 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012

Keeping with the theme of celebrating our past while asking important questions about the future of quitlines, NAQC asked David Willoughby, CEO of ClearWay MN and former Chair of NAQC’s Board of Directors to weigh in on the question below:

Knowing what we know now, if we built the quitline cessation service of tomorrow, capable of serving and attracting tobacco users acrossthe whole nation, what would it look like?

"I’m not sure it’s possible to speculate about an ideal "quitline cessation service of tomorrow,” since there are so many variables involved – changing technology, smoker demographics and ways to use tobacco. But here are a few points that are important for any successful quitline in the 21st Century.

  • Identifying the quitline’s purpose is important. Reaching the greatest population requires a different approach than maximizing individual cessation outcomes, and a shift in emphasis may be necessary as we look down the road. For instance, traditionally we have focused our efforts on those smokers who are ready to make a quit attempt in the next 30 days, because they are more likely to have individual success from treatment. But might we have a greater health impact if we focused just on increasing engagement with smokers and reaching as many as possible – regardless of whether they are ready to quit or not? Specific goals will dictate a specific approach and could lead to better results.

  • Services must be designed with the needs and expectations of our customers – smokers – in mind. There is a growing body of literature in the area of consumer demand, both in tobacco control and other fields. This knowledge provides a window into the lives of smokers – the social and environmental context in which quit attempts occur – and we should apply it when looking to the future of quitline cessation services.

  • Technology must be integrated into quitline cessation services. Technology continues to change, and how smokers use technology is also evolving. Furthermore, demographic differences are emerging with respect to ownership and use of technology – for example, African Americans and Chicano Latinos are now more likely to own a smartphone than Caucasians (see We should be using customers’ preferred technology to engage them and to keep them involved.

  • Building partnerships to ensure quitline sustainability will be essential. The economic downturn of the past few years underscores the urgent need to expand funding for quitlines.We must learn as a community of quitlines how to best build support from our health plans, employers and other key stakeholders who have a vested in interest in creating cessation access for all tobacco users. NAQC has recognized the importance of forming public-private partnerships, and successful quitlines of the future will be those who have taken on the important work of building them.

At the beginning of 2012, we see that times are changing, the population of smokers is changing and technology is changing. As we look to the future, we need to ask ourselves, are we keeping up, keeping services fresh and taking advantage of every opportunity the future has to offer?”

How are you "keeping up?” Are there recent changes to your promotion efforts or to your service offerings that are helping you to extend your reach or improve effectiveness? Tell us more!!!...and thanks so much, David, for this answer and your continued leadership!

Tags:  cessation  ClearWay MN  future of quitlines  quitline services 

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