Text messages help smokers quit
If you want to quit smoking, check your cellphone.
Smokers are twice as likely to succeed in quitting if they receive supportive text messages, British researchers have found. The study, published June 30 online in the British medical journal The Lancet, followed 5,800 smokers as they attempted to quit.
Only 10.7% of smokers receiving messages were still abstaining at six months, but that rate is still double the quit rate of those who didn’t receive the motivational messages.
One group in the study was sent motivational text messages, while another group received “placebo texts” thanking them for participating in the study.
Six months after trying to quit smoking, the participants underwent testing for cotinine, a substance found in nicotine. Those who had received the motivational texts were twice as likely to still be smoke-free.
Smokers received five texts a day for the first five weeks and three a week for 26 weeks after that. “TXT2STOP: think you’ll put on weight when you quit? We’re here to help – We’ll TXT weight control and exercise tips, recipes and motivation tips,” one of the messages reads.
Smokers also could text for help during cravings or relapses and would receive tips for dealing with cravings or motivation to keep going despite a relapse.
Caroline Free, lead researcher on the study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says smokers reported that the text messages helped them through the difficulty of stopping smoking. “It made them feel less isolated while they tried to quit,” she says.
For a small group of smokers, the texts became unhelpful after awhile, Free says, because the messages reminded them of smoking.
“There’s no one form of support that will work for everyone,” Free says.
Smokers were encouraged to get all the support they could during the study and were allowed to use any other quitting service they wanted. About 40% of smokers used other services in addition to receiving texts, Free says.
Free says increased personalization and interactivity could make the text-message program even more effective. In the USA, about one in five adults still smoke.