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News » Filed under: Smoking/Tobacco

Study Shows Quit-Smoking Text Messages Work

Article date: July 6, 2011

By Stacy Simon

A British research study shows that automated text messages are effective in helping some smokers quit. The trial randomly assigned 5,800 smokers who said they wanted to quit to either receive motivational quit-smoking text messages, or to receive placebo text messages. About twice as many smokers who received the quit-smoking messages successfully quit after 6 months. The study was published online June 30 in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

Participants in the so-called “txt2stop” cessation program received motivational text messages including, “Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over.” Participants in the control group received placebo messages that simply thanked them for participating, for example, “Thanks for taking part! Without your input, the study could not have gone ahead!”

After 6 months, 10.7% of the txt2stop participants had stopped smoking compared to 4.9% of the control group. Researchers verified the results by testing the saliva of participants who reported they had quit.

Lead researcher Dr. Caroline Free, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, “Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit. People described txt2stop as like having a ‘friend’ encouraging them or an ‘angel on their shoulder’. It helped people resist the temptation to smoke.”

The success rate of the txt2stop program is similar to other quit-smoking programs. In general, about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medicines or other help. Studies in medical journals have reported that between about 25% and 33% of smokers who use medicines can stay smoke-free for over 6 months. There is also early evidence that combining some medicines may work better than using them alone. Participants in both the txt2stop program and the control group were permitted to also use whatever other stop-smoking methods they wanted.

The researchers maintain that the program should be considered for inclusion in other anti-smoking efforts because it is effective alone, as well as in conjunction with other programs. And they say the widespread ownership of cell phones makes texting a low-cost method of delivering stop-smoking messages to large numbers of people. In 2009, more than two-thirds of the world’s population owned a cell phone.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 5.4 million smoking-related premature deaths each year. For help with quitting smoking, call us at 1-800-227-2345 or see our Guide to Quitting Smoking and the other resources at cancer.org/smokeout.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

Citation: Smoking Cessation Support Delivered Via Mobile Phone Text Messaging (txt2stop): A Single-Blind, Randomized Trial. Published in the July 2, 2011 issue of The Lancet (Vol. 378, No. 9785). First author: Caroline Free, PhD, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, U.K.

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