Quit Smoking By Being Tech Savvy: Web-Based Help Keeps Quitters On Track

cigarettes and ashes
Overcoming smoking triggers, like seeing another person smoke or consuming alcohol, are some of the most difficult things a quitter can do. But a new study points to the usefulness of both telephone and web-based cessation services. CC BY 2.0

Using online smoking cessation services might make — or break — your attempt to quit, according to a new study out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition to your other quitting crutches, like nicotine patches, exercise, and telephone services, you might want to get behind the computer and start participating in some free online programs, which will help keep you on track.

The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, surveyed smokers who used telephone and/or web-based cessation services in four states in order to see if they were effective. The researchers examined 7,901 smokers, and found that those who used both the telephone service and web service were far more likely to report abstinence from smoking after 30 days than telephone-only users and web-only users. “These findings suggest that states might consider offering both types of cessation services to increase cessation success,” the authors wrote.

Smokefree.gov lists examples of smoking triggers, such as feeling stressed, drinking booze, driving, finishing a meal, going to a bar, or of course, seeing another person smoking. These little things, that seemingly attack and bombard smokers throughout their day-to-day lives, are what make it so difficult to quit. “Everyone who smokes has smoking triggers,” the website states. “Knowing your triggers helps you stay in control.” Having a plan whenever you experience a smoking trigger is crucial; going for a walk or jog, or grabbing a cup of coffee instead, can help you overcome these cravings and temptations.

Smoking quitlines — whether telephone-based or online — offer guidance and support to help maintain abstinence and beat the cravings. For example, New York State Smokers’ Quitline has an online service that involves a messaging app that will text you helpful advice, as well as a discussion forum where you can talk about your progress with other quitters and a "quit coach." Though most quitlines have web versions, not much research has been done until now as to whether using both the telephone and web services was successful.

There are, however, a few caveats the authors point out about the study. The participants examined were only representing four states, for example, and the study focused only on cigarette smoking rather than other types of tobacco, like hookah or e-cigarettes. More research will need to be done, but for now it’s safe to assume that if you’re trying to quit, give both the telephone and online services a shot.

“Tobacco use is a leading preventable cause of mortality from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases,” the authors wrote. “Use of web-based and telephone cessation services in combination provides a new tool for public health programs, such as CDC’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, to prevent lung cancer. As such, tobacco and cancer control programs might choose to focus on implementation and improvement of both types of cessation services in their populations.”

Source: Puckett M, Neri A, Thompson T, et al. The health consequences of smoking – 50 years of progress: a report of the Surgeon General. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2014.

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