Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Smoking Cessation Rate Doubles With Text Messaging

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Regular mobile phone text messaging show increases significantly improved smoking cessation rates at 6 months, according to a study published Jun 30 in The Lancet.

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

In a single-blind, randomised trial, undertaken in the UK, involving 6,000 smokers who wanted to quit, half of them assigned to receive encouraging text messages about quitting smoking, such as the above one sent on "Quit Day." The other half received text messages at the same frequency thanking them for being part of the study.

After six months, all participants received a biochemical test to check if they had actually quit, eliminating self-reporting errors. The study found that 10.7% of those receiving text messages had quit, versus 4.9% of the control group, meaning that receiving the text messages more than doubled the quit rate at six months. This is consistent with previous studies on the effect of text messages on quitting smoking.

Participants received five text messages a day in the first five weeks, and then three messages a week for the remaining 26 weeks of the study. The messages were put together by smoking cessation experts and smokers.

In addition to messages encouraging smokers to quit, participants could text "CRAVE" to a special number to get a response such as:

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

Similarly, if someone trying to quit smoked a cigarette, then they could text "LAPSE" to receive a message like this:

“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!”

Examples of intervention-group text messages

In lead-up to quit date

“To make things easier for yourself, try having some distractions ready for cravings and think up some personal strategies to help in stressful situations”; “why not write an action list of your reasons why you want to quit. Use it as your inspiration.”

Message relating to specific issues

“TXT2STOP: Think you'll put on weight when you quit? We're here to help - We'll TXT weight control and exercise tips, recipes, and motivation tips.”

On quit date

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

After quit day

“TXT2STOP: 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. Save this txt so u can txt CRAVE to us at any time during the programme.”

This is a low-cost strategy that can be easily implemented by anyone who wants to quit smoking and has friends who can text. The friends can simply send regular encouraging text messages to the quitter to double the chances of successfully quitting.

Journal Reference

Free C, Knight R, Robertson S, Whittaker R, Edwards P, Zhou W, Rodgers A, Cairns J, Kenward MG, Roberts I. Smoking cessation support delivered via mobile phone text messaging (txt2stop): a single-blind, randomised trial. Lancet. 2011 Jul 2;378(9785):49-55.

We do not know of a similar programme in Malaysia, but you can CLICK HERE for more information on this report.

By the way, if you want to call or text on your mobile phone, please park your vehicle safely before doing so!

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