Texting Can Help Smokers QuitA new study demonstrates that cell phones can be used as a tool to help people stop smoking.

In one study, motivational and supportive text delivered via cell phones helped smokers double rates of cessation over a six-month period.

The findings of the “txt2stop” trial are published in The Lancet.

Two out of three smokers attempt to quit but fail. In this study, nearly 6,000 people took part in a trial to evaluate this approach to providing motivational cues and support.

The study examined the long-term effects of specially-designed text messages by testing the levels of cotinine (a chemical found in tobacco) found in participants’ saliva after they reported they had stopped smoking for six months.

A total of 5,800 smokers were randomly allocated 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 with a personalized system which also allowed people to receive instant messages at times of need by texting the word “crave” or “lapse.”

The messages, which were developed with input from smokers and smoking cessation professionals, encouraged participants to persevere and focused on their success so far.

Examples of the messages include:

  • “This is it! – QUIT DAY, throw away all your fags. TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!”
  • “Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over.”

Control group participants received text messages every two weeks thanking them for taking part in the trial. The results showed that continuous abstinence – verified by chemical tests – at six months was significantly increased in the txt2stop group; 10.7 percent success for txt2stop versus 4.9 percent success for the control.

The study found txt2stop worked well for all ages and across all social groups, with the authors concluding: “Mobile phone text messaging smoking cessation support doubles quit rates at six months.”

Researchers say people appreciated the support of text messages, said Caroline Free, Ph.D., who led the research, says: “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.”

Experts believe text motivation will now become a standard part of the smoking cessation programs, and this technology aid may be used to help individuals with weight control and control of other addictive behaviors.

Support: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine