July 5, 2011

Text Messages Help Smokers Quit

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Could text messages be the key to helping smokers quit? A new study shows smokers who received motivational and supportive texts double quit rates at six months.

Researchers studied 5,800 smokers who were assigned to the txt2stop program or a control group. The txt2stop group received five text messages a day for the first five weeks and then three per week for the next 26 weeks. The program also included a personalized system that also allowed the participants to receive instant messages at times of need by texting the words "crave" or "lapse." Participants in the control group received occasional text messages, thanking them for taking part in the trial.

The messages in the txt2stop program encouraged the smokers to stay focused on their success. Some examples of the text messages include: "TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it," and "Cravings last less than 5 minutes, on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over."

Results showed continuous abstinence at six months, which was verified by chemical tests, was a 10.7 percent success in the txt2stop group versus a 4.9 percent success in the control group. The researchers found txt2stop worked well for all ages and social groups.

"Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit. People described txt2stop as being like having a 'friend' encouraging them or an 'angel on their shoulder.' It helped people resist the temptation to smoke," London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine clinical lecturer and GP, Dr. Caroline Free, who led the research, was quoted as saying.

Smoking is thought to cause more than 5 million worldwide deaths each year. Although two out of three smokers say they would like to give up the habit, they often fail.

SOURCE: The Lancet, June 2011