Study finds personalized text messages helps some quit smoking

Smoking is a hard habit to break. A recent study, reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that sending smokers personalized text messages was twice as effective as giving them self-help materials, Valerie DeBenedette writes for Health Behavior News Service.

Participants chose a date to quit smoking and received five text messages during that day and two per day for the rest of the week. Then the text messages decreased to three per week, then to one per week. “Encouraging texts included top health reasons to quit smoking and the amount of money saved by quitting,” DeBenedette writes.

“Previously, phone texting programs to help people quit smoking have been shown to be effective in other countries, said Lorien C. Abroms, Sc.D., the lead author of the study and associate professor of prevention and community health at The George Washington University. “This is the first long-term study in the United States.”

More than 500 smokers were placed in one of two groups: the group that received text messages and the group that received self-help materials. They were then surveyed about their experience with the program one, three and six months afterward. Researchers tested mailed saliva samples for cotinine to determine if participants had stopped smoking.

Of those who received texts, 11.1 percent stayed off tobacco, compared to 5 percent in the control group. When asked to self-report, “nearly 20 percent of the texting group said they had quit, compared to 10 percent of the control group,” DeBenedette writes.

Abroms said texting is cost-effective. Some programs offer it along with telephone counseling. “The potential for reach is wide, and they are fairly low cost compared to more traditional types of therapy,” she said.

Chris Bostic, J.D., deputy director for policy at Action on Smoking and Health, an advocacy group in Washington, told DeBenedette, “Even if something like texting only has a marginal effect on the quit rate, it should be added to [the] menu of options available to smokers who want to quit.” (Read more)

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