Open Access Open Badges Study protocol

Population-based tobacco treatment: study design of a randomized controlled trial

Steven S Fu12*, Michelle van Ryn3, Scott E Sherman45, Diana J Burgess12, Siamak Noorbaloochi12, Barbara Clothier1 and Anne M Joseph2

Author Affiliations

1 VA HSR&D Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, MN, USA

2 University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Medicine, Minneapolis, MN, USA

3 University of Minnesota Medical School, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Minneapolis, MN, USA

4 VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, New York City, NY, USA

5 New York University School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, New York City, NY, USA

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:159  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-159

Published: 6 March 2012



Most smokers do not receive comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for tobacco use that includes intensive behavioral counseling along with pharmacotherapy. Further, the use of proven, tobacco treatments is lower among minorities than among Whites. The primary objectives of this study are to: (1) Assess the effect of a proactive care intervention (PRO) on population-level smoking abstinence rates (i.e., abstinence among all smokers including those who use and do not utilize treatment) and on utilization of tobacco treatment compared to reactive/usual care (UC) among a diverse population of smokers, (2) Compare the effect of PRO on population-level smoking abstinence rates and utilization of tobacco treatments between African American and White smokers, and (3) Determine the cost-effectiveness of the proactive care intervention.


This prospective randomized controlled trial identifies a population-based sample of current smokers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) electronic medical record health factor dataset. The proactive care intervention combines: (1) proactive outreach and (2) offer of choice of smoking cessation services (telephone or face-to-face). Proactive outreach includes mailed invitation materials followed by an outreach call that encourages smokers to seek treatment with choice of services. Proactive care participants who choose telephone care receive VA telephone counseling and access to pharmacotherapy. Proactive care participants who choose face-to-face care are referred to their VA facility's smoking cessation clinic. Usual care participants have access to standard smoking cessation services from their VA facility (e.g., pharmacotherapy, smoking cessation clinic) and from their state telephone quitline. Baseline data is collected from VA administrative databases and participant surveys. Outcomes from both groups are collected 12 months post-randomization from participant surveys and from VA administrative databases. The primary outcome is self-reported smoking abstinence, which is assessed at the population-level (i.e., among those who utilize and those who do not utilize tobacco treatment). Primary analyses will follow intention-to-treat methodology.


This randomized trial is testing proactive outreach strategies offering choice of smoking cessation services, an innovation that if proven effective and cost-effective, will transform the way tobacco treatment is delivered. National dissemination of proactive treatment strategies could dramatically reduce tobacco-related morbidity, mortality, and health care costs.

Clinical trials registration NCT00608426.

Smoking Cessation; Tobacco Cessation Products; Ethnic Groups; Minority Health