Smokers get help quitting through text messages

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People who are trying to quit smoking are being helped by motivational text messages that get sent directly to their mobile phone. A study found that s...

People who are trying to quit smoking are being helped by motivational text messages that get sent directly to their mobile phone.

A study found that smokers were twice more likely to give up smoking successfully after receiving the ‘txt2stop’ trial messages than those who went un-encouraged.  

Three thousand smokers took part in the trial and received five messages a day for five weeks and then three messages a day for the following six months.

Smokers themselves worked with health experts to phrase the messages, which as well as offering support to quitters they also gave advice on how to avoid weight gain after stopping smoking.

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Participants of the trial also had the option to request text messages of support if they felt they were in a time of need.

Users could text the word ‘crave’ or ‘lapse’ and receive messages that read: “Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over.”

Alternatively, if quitters had a lapse they would get back: “Don’t feel bad or guilty if you’ve slipped. You’ve achieved a lot by stopping for a while. Slip-ups can be a normal part of the quitting process. Keep going, you can do it!”

When smokers first decided to quit the text message that they received said: “This is it! - QUIT DAY; throw away all your fags. TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!”

To ensure that the smokers taking part in the trial really had stopped smoking, saliva tests were undertaken to check for the tobacco related chemical cotinine.

The results of the study showed that there was a 10.7 percent success rate in quitters who received the motivational text messages, against just a 4.9 percent rate of success in participants who were sent messages on a range of topics that were not connected to smoking.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council and was led by Dr Caroline Free from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She said in an interview: “Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit. People described txt2stop as being like having a 'friend' encouraging them or an 'angel on their shoulder'. It helped people resist the temptation to smoke.”

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