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
Texting presents a tentative answer. Think about it--
text messaging is an instant 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
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
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.