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Can Texting Double Your Odds of Kicking Smoking for Good?

Many smokers know all too well how difficult smoking can be to give up; a 2010 CDC survey showed that almost 7 out of 10 smokers wanted to kick the habit completely, yet many struggle to do so. And most smokers know how beneficial succeeding would be for their health-- after all, tobacco use is the greatest preventable cause of disease and death in the United States to this day, with more than 480,000 Americans dying from smoking or secondhand smoke each year. So, in the face of such difficulty but such importance, how does one quit for good?

Texting presents a tentative answer. Think about it-- text messaging is an insant and effective way to communicate in an era where most of the world's population uses cell phones and texting gains traction across age groups. If it is used to send reminders to smokers trying to quit, it may provide the kind of regular, external guidance and support a smoker needs to stay focused while quitting.

Several minds have put texting to exactly this task, creating programs like SmokefreeTXT and Text2Quit, texting subscription services that aim to help smokers cut themselves off. These services allow smokers to choose a quit date and provide other information that will subscribe them to text messages customized to help them deal with cravings and track their progress as they work towards quitting. The services bolster their aid by offering reminders of why their users are quitting and words of encouragement. But how effective can a text messaging service be at helping someone end such a persistent addiction?

Very, says one study. Published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2014, the study recruited 503 smokers online, who were randomly assigned to either a group that received conventional self-help materials or one that received text messages like the ones SmokefreeTXT and Text2Quit deliver. Smokers assigned to the texting group could interact with researchers, being able to reply to the texts, choose a new quit date, or send a text when experiencing a craving to receive immediate, individualized help fighting it. The trial lasted for six months.

At the conclusion of the study, 11% of the smokers assigned to the texting group remained smoke-free, as opposed to only 5% of the control group. While the rate of quitting remains low, the results are clear: the text messaging program effected a significant increase in quitting and quitting retention, with the proportion of text-messaging smokers who remained smoke-free at the study's close more than double that of those who did not receive the texts.

To validate their results, researchers ran tests on saliva samples from the participants who claimed to have quit smoking. With the results of the test in, researchers confirmed that the rate of quitting in the texting group was still double that of the rate of the control group.

These are promising results for smokers who are motivated to quit, but struggling-- notably, a large proportion of U.S. smokers. Future research may hope to find better tactics for helping smokers who are less eager to quit, or for people who are less technology savvy. All in all, with text messaging at our disposal, we are poised to make great strides in the realm of medicine and addiction.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 

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