NEW YORK (MainStreet) — People struggling to quit smoking might want to turn to their cellphones for help.
A new study published in the British journal The Lancet suggests that smokers can increase their chances of kicking the habit by exchanging motivational text messages.
Researchers in the United Kingdom came to this conclusion after analyzing a sample of 5,800 smokers who were trying to quit by signing them up for a program called txt2stop.
The txt2stop group received five text messages a day for the first five weeks and then three per week for the next 26 weeks. Participants could also receive messages at times of need by texting the word 'crave' or 'Lapse' to the service.
The encouraging messages were developed with input from smokers and smoking cessation professionals. Here are two examples:
- "This is it! - QUIT DAY, throw away all your fags [the common British term for cigarettes]. TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!"
- "Cravings last less than five minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over"
Also, a randomly-selected control group was sent bi-monthly text messages simply thanking them for taking part in the trial.
The results showed that continued abstinence, verified by chemical tests at six months, significantly increased in the txt2stop group. These smokers exhibited a 10.7% success rate, while smokers in the control group exhibited a 4.9% success rate.
The researchers said that the program worked well for all ages and social groups and attributed its success to a phone’s ability to mimic an ever-present support group through messaging services like txt2stop.
"Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit,” Dr. Caroline Free, who led the research, said in a press release. “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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