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Jul 11, 2011

Text Message Reminders Help Smokers Quit

New texting program doubles smokers’ chances of quitting in UK study.

Although smoking is on the decline, it remains the number one most preventable cause of death in the United States. Not only a significant risk factor for heart disease, smoking greatly increases risk for cancers and other serious health conditions that result in more than 5 million deaths each year worldwide.  So why do people continue to light up? Although it is estimated that two of every three smokers want to quit, stopping smoking is often easier said than done. Luckily, researchers have discovered one more tool that can help smokers quit, in addition to the many smoking cessation aids already available.

A recent UK study published in The Lancet reported this July that a mobile phone text messaging program called “txt2stop” is effective in helping smokers quit smoking and maintain smoking abstinence over time. This study involved 5,800 participants, half of which received txt2stop text messages while the other half received texts unrelated to smoking cessation. Among all participants, those receiving smoking cessation texts as part of the txt2stop program were more than 2 times as likely to quit and abstain from smoking for 6 months (10.7% of txt2stop group vs. 4.9% of control group).

So how did txt2stop help participants quit smoking? Periodical text messages were sent daily to participants assigned to the intervention group, including motivational messages and behavioral-change support. Not only did participants receive daily automated messages, they could text certain words to the program such as “crave” to receive real-time tips on how to overcome their current craving.

With mobile phones becoming increasingly common in the U.S. and worldwide, texting may be the new wave of smoking cessation tools to help millions quit. Not only are texting programs convenient for users, they can be used in conjunction with other smoking cessation aids and provide tailored messaging to help smokers overcome the many challenges they may encounter while quitting.

U.S. residents can register for a similar program designed by experts from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. 

Questions for You to Consider

  • What smoking cessation aids exist to help smokers quit?

  • A variety of tools exist to help smokers quit. Aside from quitting cold turkey without the use of aids, adults can be prescribed smoking cessation drugs that help to fight nicotine withdrawal and tobacco cravings. There are also various types of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, inhalers, lozenges, gum and nasal spray that can help wean smokers off of cigarettes.
  • Are the health effects of smoking irreversible?

  • Absolutely not. Smokers experience many benefits by quitting, some of which begin just minutes after stopping smoking. Twenty minutes after quitting, blood pressure and heart rate will drop, and the benefits continue to improve over time. One year after quitting, risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker; within years, risk for stroke, heart disease and other health conditions can equal that of a non-smoker.

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