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QuitConnect: A Nation Wide Smokers’ Community for Proactive Re-Engagement

QuitConnect is an exciting new project being implemented by the University of South Carolina, in partnership with the North American Quitline Consortium. QuitConnect will provide tobacco users with access to a variety of national cessation resources, all in one place. In addition, researchers and service providers can reach out to QuitConnect community members, who will provide a pool of potential participants for outreach efforts and research on continued engagement in cessation. In other words, it is a way for smokers to get connected with evidence-based quitting tools, and to help test innovative cessation approaches, even before they are publicly available!

Quitconnect will securely house demographic and contact information for tobacco users who opt-in via a web application. Participants will register by answering a few questions on demographics, tobacco use, and quit behavior. They will also provide consent for future contact about new cessation programs; outreach coordinated with campaigns (e.g. TIPs, FDA); and opportunities to participate in cessation research. The QuitConnect resource page will then provide them with a variety of smoking cessation resources from which they can choose (e.g. email support, text support, and helpful websites). To facilitate cessation research, staff at the University of South Carolina who have been trained in managing health information, can query participant information for targeted follow-up or for recruitment to test new cessation approaches. Researchers and service providers can request that community members be contacted that fit demographic and tobacco use criteria of interest.  

The aim of this CDC funded pilot project is to create the technological platform and to test the feasibility and level of acceptance amongst stakeholders. For the pilot study, eligibility for QuitConnect is limited primarily to smokers who call quitlines. In the future, there will be opportunities for other tobacco users to sign up. In the pilot project, partner state quitlines will send an email or a text to callers who have previously consented to be re-contacted. Potential participants will be randomized to receive an email or text with one of several invitation messages that link to the QuitConnect website where they can sign up (see above). We will then test which combinations of communication method and message are the most successful in getting quitline callers to become members of the QuitConnect community.

This pilot project is just the first step towards a larger vision for building a QuitConnect community that involves diverse tobacco users, including those who are difficult to reach or do not call quitlines. QuitConnect will compliment, promote, and strengthen the other resources available to tobacco users who want to quit. Quitconnect aims to complement current tobacco cessation resources, while allowing for a flexible development and evolution as new outreach and research needs arise.

The Principal Investigators for QuitConnect are Dr. James Thrasher (Associate Professor Health Promotion Education and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina) and Dr. Scott Strayer (Professor, University of South Carolina School of Medicine).  For more information contact Dr. Mark Macauda, Project Manager, ( 


QuitConnect Flowchart Steps

Step 1: Participating state quitlines send an invitation to consented quitline callers to join the QuitConnect registry. Invitations will be sent either by email or text, and contain one of four different messages designed by the study team.

Step 2: Text and e-mail messages direct previous quitline callers to the QuitConnect portal main landing page.

Step 3: The QuitConnect portal enables users to select smoking cessation tools they would like to utilize, potentially including mobile text support, mobile phone apps, web support, and social media support (see mockup, below).

Step 4: After selecting desired smoking cessation resources, a registration process will include: basic demographic data, information on smoking habits/current smoking status, and quit behavior.

Step 5: New participants in QuitConnect receive the cessation support that they selected. Future iterations may also refer them back to their original quitline.

After Registration:

  • Based on their preferences, participants can select from a variety of cessation support methods such as text messages, social media, and online resources for ongoing cessation and relapse support.
  • QuitConnect can contact members in coordination with national, regional, and local cessation campaigns.
  • Researchers will have opportunities to contact interested participants about study opportunities.


Q: Will states have to turn over their lists of quitline callers or their data?

A: No, QuitConnect is voluntary. For the pilot, some partner quitlines may choose to send us an encrypted list of callers’ contact information, so that we may send invitation messages. Others may choose to send the messages themselves.

Q: Where will QuitConnect be housed?

A: QuitConnect will be housed at the Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina.

Q: How will the data collected from participants be protected?

A: QuitConnect will be hosted on a server with proper protections for storing Personal Health Information (PHI) and sensitive information. All communications to and from the web application will be protected by SSL/TLS encryption. The servers themselves are behind the University of South Carolina firewall.

Q: Who will have access to the data on QuitConnect?

A: The IT team that will be maintaining the platform, who have HIPAA and specific IT security training. For outside data access we envision an application process, whereby those interested in using the data would outline their intended use. This would be subject to approval.

Q: Is this the same as the CDC Data Warehouse?

A: No, this is a new, separate project. We envision QuitConnect as a partnership and as a resource that the entire cessation community can have access to and use. Moreover, we will be providing cessation resources to tobacco users directly.

Q: Is this just for smokers or for all tobacco users?

A: The goal of QuitConnect is that it will be a resource for all tobacco users. For the pilot project, however, we are limiting the population primarily to smokers who call quitlines, though some other populations of tobacco users will also be recruited on a limited basis.

Q: Why create a separate platform rather than work with the data already collected by quitlines?

A: The vision for QuitConnect is that it will be a resource for a broad population of both tobacco users and those trying to help them quit. Although quitlines can provide access to an important population of smokers who are interested in quitting, we expect to recruit QuitConnect community members from a broad range of methods (community samples, hospital registries). Moreover, the different state quitlines have different data infrastructures that make multistate integration difficult.

Q: Our quitline works hard to re-contact our callers, would we be deferring clients to QuitConnect?

A: QuitConnect aims to provide smokers with additional and complimentary resources that are not redundant with quitline services. Because smoking is a chronic, relapsing disorder, we expect that most smokers who call quitlines will relapse. QuitConnect aims to help facilitate continued engagement in cessation, whether through outreach coordinated with state partners or by serving as a resource for cessation researchers. After the pilot study, we aim to recruit tobacco users who do not call quitlines, and could facilitate linkage to 100-Quitnow through QuitConnect, thereby directing new callers to quitlines.

Q: What if someone does not want to be part of QuitConnect anymore?

A: Participants can opt-out at any time.

Q: What about the cost to the quitline of gathering information, creating contact lists, and sending out emails/texts?

A: There are some funds available for the pilot to defray costs of participation.

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