Understanding Quit Rates for the Best Smoking Cessation Programs

Understanding Quit Rates for the Best Smoking Cessation Programs

When you’re looking for the best smoking cessation program for your population, knowing what questions to ask potential vendors is essential. Even more important, however, is the ability to interpret the responses they give you.

“What’s your quit rate?” is a common question that employers ask during the vetting process. Soon after, many also ask, “is that quit rate good? How does it compare to others?”

One difficulty is that metrics used to gauge quit rate success are not always consistent.

To help you evaluate quit rates on a more apples-to-apples level, here are 4 key questions I recommend you ask potential cessation vendors, with tips on how to interpret their answers.

Question 1: What is your quit rate?

Ultimately, the goal of a quit-smoking program is to help people quit smoking. Every program should report its “quit rate,” a key metric that describes the percentage of users who successfully quit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that among all smokers in 2015, the national quit rate was only about 7%. Smokers can dramatically increase their chances by using an evidence-based program like the EX Program. Smokers who use the EX Program have a quit rate of 34%.

Question 2: How does the program define “quit”?

This might seem simple, but it’s actually not. How long does somebody have to refrain from smoking before their quit is considered a success? A day? A week? A month? A year? There’s no “right” answer, but there are some industry standards.

In general, most programs report what’s called the “6-month, 30-day quit rate.” It refers to the percentage of users who report that they haven’t smoked at all in the past 30 days, when asked 6 months after their quit date. Note that the definition contains two different time periods: the amount of time the user has been abstinent, and the amount of time since they quit.

Some programs use other definitions that shorten one or both of those time periods. For example, a “3-month, 7-day quit rate” would describe the percentage of users who were abstinent from tobacco for the past 7 days, measured 3 months after they started the program.

Programs that define “quit” using shorter time periods are often able to claim a higher quit rate, because it’s easier to quit for 3 months than it is to quit for 9 months (though both are really difficult). At the EX Program we define “quit” using a 9-month, 30-day definition because success for us means quitting for good.

Question 3: Who gets counted in the quit rate?

One challenge in calculating a quit rate is deciding who to count. That decision is particularly complex for a digital program; a smoker might visit a website for 3 minutes, but if they don’t engage with any of the program tools or content it would be unrealistic to expect much benefit.

For that reason, most programs have some minimum engagement criteria for users to be counted in the quit rate.

For example, a traditional telephonic quit line might require users to make at least 5 phone calls. For the EX Program, our quit rate is calculated among those who used all of our EX Program features, including visiting the EX Community and using some form of FDA-approved quit medication.

Question 4: How should I evaluate your program’s quit rate?

Details about quit rates can get technical pretty quickly. But if 2 programs use different definitions of “quit,” it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Without being an expert in smoking cessation, it can be difficult to evaluate how rigorous a program’s quit rate really is, but in general, longer-term quit rates are considered more robust and credible than shorter-term quit rates.

Be an informed buyer of cessation programs

Interested in learning additional questions to identify the best smoking cessation program for your company’s needs? Please download “The Buyer’s Guide for Tobacco Cessation Programs.”

Download Buyers Guide for Workplace Smoking Cessation Programs

Michael Amato, Ph.D.
Michael Amato, Ph.D.

Managing Director, Data and Analytics

Dr. Michael Amato leads a data team responsible for analytics and reporting for the EX Program and our clients. Amato has published numerous research papers and regularly speaks on the use of digital cessation interventions to reduce smoking in the population. His expertise includes meaningful intervention engagement metrics, text analytics for user-generated content, and using unique methodology and opportunities in observational studies of online behavior. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, focusing on quantitative methods and behavior change communication. Amato is Assistant Professor of Medicine (adjunct) at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

Human Resources Today