Could Text Messages Help People Quit Smoking?

Smokers desperate to quit may want to try asking their friends and relatives to barrage them with encouraging text messages, a new study in the UK medical journal The Lancet suggests.

Could Text Messages Help People Quit Smoking?

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that smokers were more than twice as likely to quit successfully if they received supportive texts.

The study tracked nearly 6,000 participants who wanted to quit smoking. They were split into two groups, with one group receiving the text messages, as part of a program called “txt2stop,” and the other group receiving text messages unrelated to smoking.

Texts sent via txt2stop included: “This is it! – QUIT DAY, throw away all your fags. 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.” Study subjects could text back if they needed more help.

Nearly 11 percent of those who were sent the supportive messages were still abstaining from smoking after six months, compared with nearly 5 percent who did not receive the same messages. The researchers used saliva tests to verify whether those who said they had stopped smoking had actually done so.

The results suggest that text messages could be an inexpensive and simple way to improve health around the globe. Derrick Bennett and Jonathan Emberson of Oxford University said that the rapid spread of mobile phone use and smoking in poor countries means that the txt2stop method could be effective in both rich and impoverished countries.

Sources: The Lancet, Science Daily, Health Express, Guardian, Reuters

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