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Smoking cessation text messages can help smokers quit

June 30, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • A several-month regimen of text messages--including encouraging quips like "Keep going, you can do it!"--helped some smokers quit the habit in a new UK study published in the Lancet.
A several-month regimen of text messages--including encouraging quips… (Los Angeles Times )

Text messages often have little informative or higher value -- :), :(, lol, whats up? But some of those that do just might be able to help smokers kick the habit. 

In a UK intervention called -- what else? -- “txt2stop,” 5,800 people trying to quit smoking received either personalized text messages encouraging them to abstain or were part of a control group that received texts unrelated to quitting smoking. Participants were texted five times a day for five weeks, then three times a day for 26 weeks.

Quitters could also text “crave” to the service and receive response texts to distract and support them, such as:

“Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over.”

Or, if they gave in and smoked, participants could text “lapse” and receive a series of texts reminding them of their progress so far and encouraging them to keep going. An example "lapse" response:

“Don't feel bad or guilty if you've slipped. You've achieved a lot by stopping for a while. Slip-ups can be a normal part of the quitting process. Keep going, you can do it!”

After six months, researchers tested saliva samples for cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, to assess who’d really quit. More people had quit in the motivational text group, 10.7%, than in the control group, 4.9%.

The results were published online Thursday in the Lancet.

While both numbers were quite low in both groups, an editorial points out that such results are similar to other behavioral interventions—but texting is cheap, and the researchers will be publishing cost-effectiveness data.

The authors write in their discussion to the paper:

“On the basis of these results the txt2stop intervention should be considered as an addition to existing smoking cessation services.”

healthkey@tribune.com

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