You have used nicotine gums, medications, hypnosis, and even avoided your friends when they smoke, all in an attempt to quit smoking. But if nothing has helped you in kicking the cigarette butt yet, then you should try a text messaging program. According to researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (Milken Institute SPH.), such a service has successfully weaned 11 percent of smokers who were part of a study and kept them smoke-free for six months as compared to just five percent, who used other methods.
In a press release, Lorien C. Abroms, lead author of the study said, "Text messages seem to give smokers the constant reminders they need to stay focused on quitting, however, additional studies must be done to confirm this result and to look at how these programs work when coupled with other established anti-smoking therapies."
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 American’s per year, with second-hand smoke killing an estimated 41,000 people. Often, traditional methods like nicotine patches or counseling doesn’t work and people get back to the habit. But methods like text messages or apps to quit smoking are having more success.
Text messaging programs, like Text2Quit, send encouraging messages and advice on how to quit and stay motivated over the decision to stay smoke-free. Currently more than 75,000 people in the United States have enrolled in the Text2Quit program through quit lines, and more people are joining in every day.
This research attempted to analyze the effectiveness of text messages and anti-smoking apps by carrying out a randomized trial of a text messaging program. They recruited 503 smokers on the Internet and randomly selected half to receive text messages from the program Text2Quit, while the others got self-help material aimed at getting them to quit.
Text2Quit is an automated and personalized service that sends text messages and emails timed around a participant's quit date over the course of six months. If the participant is unsure of the quit date, then it can be reset. Smokers who have trouble fighting off an urge can text in and get a tip or a game that might help distract them until the craving goes away, Abroms said.
At the end of six months, a survey was conducted to find out if the text messages had worked, and results showed that more number of people using the text messaging service had quit compared to the control group. But to make sure that this was indeed the case, the participants were asked to give a sample of their saliva to test if there was any evidence of a nicotine byproduct called cotinine. These tests showed that the number of people who quit with texts were still two times higher than the control group.
This study adds to earlier evidence that reading supportive messages via phone could significantly increase the chances of a person quitting cigarettes.
But will this system work on people who are happy with their puffs and have no intention of quitting? Maybe not. At the end of the day, it depends on each person’s willpower and motivation to quit.
Other messaging services and apps available to aid quit smoking are:
Source: Abrams LC, Boal AL, Simmens SJ, Mendel JA, Windsor RA. A Randomized Trial of Text2Quit. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014.