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Effect of cell-phone text messaging on smoking cessation
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Jonathan Foulds, PhD posted:
More cell-phone based smoking cessation applications are being developed, but few have been properly evaluated or proven to work. However, the results of a large randomized trial of a text messaging intervention (txt2stop) were recently published, and found positive results. The study was published by professor Caroline Free (United Kingdom) and colleagues in the medical journal, The Lancet . They recruited 5,800 smokers and approximately half received text messages designed to help them quit, e.g. "Today is the start of being quit forever — you can do it.", and the other half received neutral text messages encouraging their continued participation in the study, e.g. Thanks for taking part. Without your input the study could not have gone ahead". The intervention group also had the ability to send a text when they were craving for a cigarette, or had smoked, in order to receive reply texts with advice on how to cope with the situation. At 6 month follow-up, 20% of the intervention group claimed to have not smoked in the previous month, whereas only 14% of the control group were quit. Using a more conservative definition of quitting, requiring less than 6 cigarettes smoked in the previous 5 months, supported by saliva verification of quitting at 6 month follow-up, found quit rates of 11% v 5%.
Overall, the study showed that text-based interventions delivered via mobile phones can roughly double medium-term quit rates. There were a few other interesting findings in the study. Of the people who claimed they had quit at 6 months, a surprisingly large 28% failed the saliva test that checks for nicotine (suggesting that they had in fact smoked recently!). That is an unusually high rate of inaccurate self-reporting. Unusually, the participants were allowed to use other smoking cessation services or aids during the trial and about half of both groups did so. Those who used other assistance were more likely to successfully quit, but the text intervention increased quit rates regardless.
So this is good news to know that good cell-phone smoking cessation applications can really help. I suspect that some of the more sophisticated applications for smart phones may be even more effective. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has tried any phone-based smoking cessation applications. Did they work for you?

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Jonathan Foulds, PhD. is a Professor of Public Health Sciences at Penn State University, College of Medicine. After obtaining a first class honors deg...More

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