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Texting Could Help Smokers Quit

A new study shows that texting can be an effective tool to help quit smoking.
A new study shows that texting can be an effective tool to help quit smoking.

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Those struggling to quit smoking may find that success is just a text message away.
A study done by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., showed that smokers who used a text-messaging program to help them quit were more than two times as successful at quitting compared to those who did not get assistance from text messages.
Text message assistance operates by giving advice, reminders and techniques to aid smokers in their attempts to quit.
The service also can send smokers games that could distract a user until the craving to smoke subsides. Users who are having a craving for a cigarette can simply text “crave” or stats” to the service to initiate a response.
According to researchers at Milken Institute SPH, more than 75,000 people have enrolled in one such service called Text2Quit.
“Text messages seem to give smokers the constant reminders they need to stay focused on quitting,” Lorien C. Abroms, an associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
“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,” wrote Abroms, who was a lead designer of the Text2Quit program.
For the study, Abroms and her colleagues recruited 503 smokers from the Internet. Some of them received text messages via Text2Quit, while others received self-help material about quitting smoking.
After six months, researchers said they contacted participants to see who was successful in stopping smoking. They found that 11 percent of smokers who got the text messages had quit, while only 5 percent of the controls had given up the habit.
To make sure those who said they had quit really had, researchers also took saliva samples from some. Among those who were tested, the "quit rate" also was double that of the control group.
In 2011, a similar study was done in England and yielded the same results.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking causes 480,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Globally, the CDC says more than 5 million people die from tobacco use, a number it says will rise to 8 million by 2030.
While the Milken Institute SPH appears to show promise, more studies need to be done, however, as this research only involved people who were already “highly motivated to quit and those that were already searching for quit-smoking information on the Internet.”
For example, more research needs to be done on how well text-messaging programs work in populations “less digitally connected” -- and also in those with lower motivation to quit.
The researchers also will compare their findings with other text messaging services, such as the National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT, launched in 2011.

The study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute, appeared online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Photo via Flickr.

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