The Italian National Institute of Health helpline to quit tobacco and nicotine dependence: 20 years of activity



Introduction. Tobacco use is one of the world’s leading preventable causes of death and is a major preventable risk factor of non-communicable diseases. Although smokers are aware of the health risks, their attempts to quit often fail, primarily due to the strong nicotine and/or tobacco dependence. Antismoking helplines have become an integral part of tobacco control efforts in many countries. In Italy, the ISS Antismoking Helpine is active since 2000.
Material and methods. The professional staff of the ISS Antismoking Helpline have gathered socio-demographic and smoking-related data via an electronic form, related to the received calls. The collected data have been processed in a dedicated database and analyzed to monitor the use and the quality of the service. In this study, a descriptive statistical analysis was conducted to inform about the activity of the helpline over the years.
Results. From May 2003 to June 2023 the helpline received 99,423 calls. Most smokers called to receive “support to quit” (82.6%). Counselling was provided in 11.4% of cases,
and in the last two years has been strongly increased (40.0% of cases). The percentage of users requesting information on emerging tobacco and nicotine products is 1.2%, even if
in 2023 this percentage has risen significantly (6.0%). Two legislative measures (in 2012 and in 2016) required to add the helpline number to all packets of tobacco cigarettes. Accordingly, the offer of counselling increased from 2.6% to 12.2%.
Conclusions. The available resources in tobacco control, including the helpline, are still not sufficient to meet all the users needs. Adequate policies and stable funding to fight
tobacco and nicotine dependence need increased commitment from government institutions to ensure equal access to treatments for all Italian citizens.

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Luisa Mastrobattista

Renata Solimini

Guido Mortali - Istituto Superiore di Sanità

Rosilde Di Pirchio

Graziella Lanzillotta

Piergiorgio Massaccesi

Claudia Mortali

Simona Pichini

Ilaria Palmi

How to Cite
Mastrobattista, L., Solimini, R., Mortali, G., Di Pirchio, R., Lanzillotta, G., Massaccesi, P., … Palmi, I. (2024). The Italian National Institute of Health helpline to quit tobacco and nicotine dependence: 20 years of activity. Annali dell’Istituto Superiore Di Sanità, 60(2), 126–133.
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