Text messages 'help smokers quit'

no smoking sign Two-thirds of UK smokers say they want to stop

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Supportive text messages can double the chance of someone successfully quitting smoking, according to UK researchers.

Just over 10% of 2,900 smokers who received encouraging texts such as "you can do it" had quit after six months, but only 4.9% of a similar number who did not have the same support gave up.

The study, published in The Lancet, called for texts to be included in services to help people kick the habit.

Other scientists said a text service could be offered globally.

According to government statistics two-thirds of UK smokers say they want to stop.

This study looked at 5,800 of them. Supportive texts were sent to 2,915 of the smokers for six months. The rest received only messages thanking them for taking part.

They were sent five texts a day for the first five weeks and then three a week for the next 26 weeks.

Participants could also text back for specific advice when they had cravings or had lapsed back into smoking.

Sample text messages

"To make things easier for yourself, try having some distractions ready for cravings and think up some personal strategies to help in stressful situations"

"This is it! - QUIT DAY, throw away all your fags. TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!"

"Quick result! Carbon monoxide has now left your body!"

"Day4=Big day - cravings still strong? Don't worry tomorrow will be easier! Keep your mind & hands busy."

"Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over."

"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!"

Saliva tests for cotinine, which is made when nicotine is broken down by the body, were taken to determine if people had really given up.

After six months, 10.7% of those receiving texts had quit - double the proportion among those doing it on their own.

Dr Caroline Free, who led the txt2stop trial at 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 being like having a friend encouraging them or an angel on their shoulder.

"It helped people resist the temptation to smoke."

The World Health Organization says nearly six million die each year because of smoking, mostly in low and middle-income countries.

Dr Derrick Bennett and Dr Jonathan Emberson, both from the University of Oxford, said text messages could be used to help people around the world.

"The lessons learned from the txt2stop trial could... not only provide a new approach to cessation in high-income and middle-income countries, but could also provide a useful starting point for implementing behavioural change in resource-poor settings."

It has also been suggested similar text messages could be used to help people modify other behaviour.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Having stopped 6 weeks ago after 20-odd years of smoking I agree with many of the other comments that the main thing is you need to want to give up. I tried many times before and always slipped quickly back into the habit. This time I wanted it and found it remarkably easy. I got my support from facebook. By the time I'd write about a craving it would be past and I'd still get support messages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Whatever helps. Some people will find encouragement to quit excellent , others will find the constant textuals reminders a bit tortuous. - one mans meat is another mans poison! As long as an individual finds it a help rather than a hinder, why not? Anything which potentially helps people free themselves from this deadly addiction is no bad thing and will save money in health care in the long run.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Anything which encourages people to quit & stay smoke-free has got to be a good thing.
    Why do many refer to anti-smoking as a bad thing?
    Smoking is a direct cause of a great many ( preventative ) diseases.
    Not everyone can give smokers a pacifying answer or one they'd prefer to hear.
    We say it as it is. Smoking kills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Totally counter-productive. The last thing I wanted when I gave up was somebody padding me on my shoulder. Also the advice "Throw your fags away today." does not help. You can only truly give up, if you keep that pack and a lighter with you at all times and then fight the urge. You know you've made it when you can join a group of smokers outside a pub and refuse that cigarette offered to you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    A small thing that will help in a small way. Don't knock it, but don't expect too much.


Comments 5 of 6


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