Social Media Initiative Effective at Getting Young Smokers to Quit

A social media program created by The Canadian Cancer Center was found to be twice as successful than traditional methods at aiding young adults quit smoking.

A social media program created by The Canadian Cancer Center was found to be twice as successful than traditional methods at aiding young adults quit smoking.

Break It Off (BIO), a smoking cessation program launched in January 2012, encouraged young adults to stop smoking through a comprehensive mobile app and website. Due to its high success rate and ability to reach teens where typical helplines missed the mark, Health Canada funded BIO for an additional five years, according to a University of Waterloo press release.

For study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Bruce Baskerville, senior scientist, Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and his colleagues followed-up with 102 19 to 29-year-old smokers who used BIO and 136 Smokers’ Helpline (SHL) users. The team also considered factors like race, education, and frequency of cigarette use in their analysis.

Based on three months of follow-up, the study authors found BIO participants had higher 7- and 30-day quit rates than SHL users. The trend continued through a three-month period where 32.4% of BIO patients stopped smoking versus 14% who underwent SHL (odds ratio = 2.95, 95% CI = 1.56— 5.57, p < .001).

The team also noted that BIO participants (91%) were more likely than SHL participants (79%) to have tried to quit smoking (odds ratio = 2.69, 95% CI = 1.03-6.99, p = .04).

Based on the study, which claimed to be one of the first to consider social media’s role in smoking cessation, the researchers believed social media might be a magic bullet for reaching and engaging teen smokers in ways that common methods don’t entail.

“These findings suggest that the creators of public health campaigns need to evaluate how they use social media channels and social networks to improve health, especially with regards to younger demographics,” said Baskerville. “Because they are such heavy users of social media, these platforms provide an alternative and successful way of reaching smokers who are less likely to relate to other cessation programs.”