Want To Quit Smoking? There’s An App For That
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These days, it seems smart phones are “smart” enough to help us do just about everything and a new report shows that mobile phones can even help smokers overcome their biggest challenge: quitting.
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Researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University found that more than 11 percent of smokers who used the Text2Quit text-messaging program to help them quit were able to remain smoke free at the end of the six month study, compared to only five percent of the control group.
Smoking kills nearly a half million Americans each year, according to the latest Surgeon General’s report on smoking. For smokers looking to quit, most turn to nicotine replacement therapies, phone counseling through help lines or just dropping the habit cold turkey.
However, enrollment in text-messaging programs is on the rise. More than 75,000 people in the U.S. are enrolled in the Text2Quit service, which sends reminders, advice and tips that help smokers resist their cravings and help them stay accountable to their quit date.
“Text messages seem to give smokers the constant reminders they need to stay focused on quitting,” says Lorien C. Abroms, ScD, MA, an associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH and the lead author of the study.
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Abroms and team studied 503 smokers and randomly selected participants to either receive Text2Quit motivational alerts or self-help material about how to quit smoking.
The text messages in the Text2Quit program are interactive and give smokers advice but they also allow participants to ask for more help or to reset a quit date if they need more time. Smokers who have trouble fighting off an urge can text in and get a tip or a game that might help distract them until the craving goes away, Abroms said.
At the end of the six month study, people self- reported via a survey whether or not they had stopped smoking and saliva samples were collected from those who reported they quit and tested for cotinine, a nicotine byproduct.
The testing confirmed that abstinence from smoking after six months was two times higher in the texting participants than the control group, suggesting that text-messaging programs can provide an effective boost for people struggling to break their smoking habit.
Abroms is quick to caution, “However, additional studies must be done to confirm this result and to look at how these programs work when coupled with other established anti-smoking therapies.”
In addition to conducting more studies to verify the effectiveness of text-messaging programs in those with less motivation to quit or in less digitally connected populations, researchers will also compare Text2Quit to other popular programs in use, like SmokefreeTXT which was launched in 2011 by the National Cancer Institute.
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