Supportive Text Messages Help Smokers Quit

June 30, 2011

Researchers reported that a motivational texting program could aid the two out of three smokers who want to quit.

"This is it! — QUIT DAY…TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!"

This text message was one of several used in a study which aimed to determine whether motivational text messages sent to smokers could help individuals kick the habit. The results were astoundingly positive.

"This research has shown that texting could be a powerful tool to help people to walk away from cigarettes for good," said director of the Medical Research Council at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Professor Max Parmer in a written statement.

The British researchers who performed the "txt2stop" study reported that a motivational texting program could aid the two out of three smokers who want to quit.

The study focused on 5,800 British smokers who were split into two groups: one group received motivational text messages while the second group received generic texts.

Smokers in the motivational text message group received five text messages per day for five weeks; then this number was decreased to three messages per week for the remaining time of the twenty-six-week study. They received messages such as, "Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over."

Participants in the control group received text messages only once every two weeks, and the messages only thanked the smokers for participating in the trial.

By the end of the twenty-six week study, 10.7% of the participants who received the motivational texts had quit smoking. Only 5% of the smokers of the non-motivational group had quit by the end of the study.

"Smoking kills more than five million people each year, and two out of every three smokers have said at some point that they would like to give up," stated Parmer. "By carrying out a large scale trial like this to see whether text messages can help people truly free themselves of their addiction, this research has shown that texting could be a powerful tool to help people to walk away from cigarettes for good."

"Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit," said lead researcher Dr. Caroline Free. "People described txt2stop as being like having a 'friend' encouraging them or an 'angel on their shoulder.'"

This study is published in the June 29 issue of The Lancet.