Re-examining phone counseling for smoking cessation: Does the evidence apply to low-SES smokers?

Rachel Garg, Amy McQueen, Ebuwa I. Evbuoma-Fike, Matthew W. Kreuter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: A 2019 Cochrane review concluded telephone counseling is an effective intervention for smoking cessation. However, the review did not assess the role of socioeconomic status (SES) indicators on the effectiveness of telephone counseling. Methods: We reviewed 65 U.S. studies from the Cochrane review. We abstracted data on education, income, employment status and insurance status, and examined associations with targeted recruitment, intervention uptake, attrition, and cessation outcomes. Results: Except for education, SES indicators were seldom reported or used in analysis: 61 studies reported education, 24 reported insurance status, 23 reported employment status, and 17 reported income. Nine studies exclusively recruited low-SES samples. Thirteen studies examined associations between SES and smoking cessation. Among these, two reported lower education predicted greater cessation and two reported higher education predicted greater cessation. Other studies found higher income (n = 2) or employment type (n = 1) predicted cessation. Conclusions: Evidence supporting telephone counseling for cessation is less clear when applied to low-SES smokers. Future research should directly assess intervention effectiveness in this priority population. Practice implications: Given the evidence, it may be hard to justify future studies not focusing on low-SES populations. Innovative counseling solutions from providers helping low-income smokers quit should be evaluated to inform best practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1783-1792
Number of pages10
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • Health disparities
  • Intervention
  • Smoking cessation
  • Special populations
  • Telephone counseling
  • Tobacco


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