Smokers Can Quit With the Help of Text Messages

by Dr. Antonio Howell, MD

in planning, quit smoking, quit smoking aids

Dr. Howell

A number of recent studies have shown that smokers who are trying to quit can be greatly aided by supportive text messages. Mobile phones have become such a huge part of our lives to the point that they are now being successfully as a smoking-cessation aid.


Dr. Pamela Brar a La Jolla, Calif. Private Practice internist explained that only 5% of smokers will successfully quit the first time, while most people have to give it a go for about 6 to 8 times over a 5 year span before they can successfully quit. The results of this new analysis ascertain that there are ways to increase the success rate of smokers quitting.
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The Study


One such study conducted by University of Auckland’s Dr. Robyn Whittaker demonstrated that motivational text messages double the success rates against the control group in the first six months. The study reviewed 5 studies with over 9,000 smokers who were trying to quit. The smokers received quit-smoking motivational text messages 5 times daily and a group in one of the studies also received short video clips documenting a smoker’s success at quitting. The control groups did not receive the text messages as frequently, but received information online or via the phone.

DID YOU KNOW?

A typical motivational text would say, “Drinking 8 glasses of water every day can help your digestive system work more easily. It helps prevent constipation and improve your metabolism during withdrawal.”

The messages were mostly automated, but personal messages were sent to smokers who were feeling desperate who had replied with a one-word text for example “crave.” The smoker would then receive tips on what they should do to curb their cravings. The tips would include things like taking a walk or having something to eat. The smoker would also be reminded that cravings only last for a few minutes.

The Success Rate

Whittaker and his team established that with the supportive text messages smokers who were trying to quit were successful in 6 months or less. 4 to 5% of smokers in the control groups were able to quit successfully while 6 to 10% of smokers in the groups that received the text messages successfully quit.


However, Dr. Whittaker issued a caution that text messages just like all other smoking cessation aids will not be an effective cessation aid in every context. The participants in the txt2stop and control groups were allowed to use other smoking cessation aids concurrently with the ‘text-message therapy.’ This shows that the text messages act as a behavioral modification aid which plays an important role in coaching a smoker to give up old habits for positive new habits that will help them quit smoking for good.


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