Smokers who receive encouraging text messages, such as “You can do it!” and “Be strong” are more likely to be successful in their quitting attempts, according to a new study from The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, R.I.
The new findings are published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (mHealth and uHealth).
“Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable global health problems, and text messaging has the promise to reach a wider audience with minimal costs and fewer resources,” said researcher Lori Scott-Sheldon, Ph.D. She and co-author Beth Bock, Ph.D., are senior research scientists at the centers and faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University.
An estimated 40 million U.S. adults (16.8 percent of the population) were cigarette smokers in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of these, 76.8 percent smoked every day, and 23.2 percent smoked some days.
Text messaging or short message service (SMS) interventions can offer a variety of people support, reminders and health education information with short and simple messages. SMS interventions can be easily adapted to fit an individual’s health needs.
Using meta-analysis, a statistical method that combines the findings from independent studies, the researchers conducted the most extensive systematic review of the literature to date. The data included 20 manuscripts with 22 text messaging interventions for smoking cessation from 10 countries.
“The evidence provides unequivocal support for the efficacy of text messaging interventions to reduce smoking behavior, but more research is needed to understand for whom they work, under what conditions, and why,” said Scott-Sheldon.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. More than 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related causes, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Furthermore, smoking-related illness costs more than $300 billion a year, including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity.
“Text messaging enjoys near-market saturation and is a widely preferred method of communication with deep penetration across diverse groups,” Bock said. “Wide availability of an attractive and effective smoking cessation program can exert a powerful, sustained impact on public health.”