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Text Messages Can Increase Your Chance Of Quitting Smoking

A new study has found that smokers in the United Kingdom who receive electronic text messages to their mobile devices, double their chance of finally kicking the habit. A 3,000 person trial tested the effects of inspirational text messages designed to encourage quitting. Participants were twice as likely to banish their habit as another group sent texts unrelated to smoking.

Dr Caroline Free, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the Medical Research Council-funded trial, said:

"Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit. 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."

Saliva tests for a tobacco break-down chemical called cotinine were used to verify that smokers really had quit. They confirmed how many had managed to stop smoking for six months. The results showed a 10.7% success rate for those receiving the motivational texts compared with 4.9% for members of the control group.

A person will receive texts at random times but can also text "lapse" or "crave" to a special number to obtain motivation immediately. An example of the text messages is as follows:

"Cravings last less than five minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over."

The randomly selected smokers in the program received five text messages a day for five weeks, followed by three per week for the next six months. People were able to receive instant messages at times of need by texting the word "crave" or "lapse".

A similar sized "control" group of smokers were sent texts simply thanking them for their participation, requesting confirmation of contact details, or mentioning a range of topics not connected to smoking.

Prof Max Parmer, director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) clinical trials unit continues:

"Smoking kills more than five million people each year, and two out of every three smokers have said at some point that they would like to give up. By carrying out a large scale trial like this to see whether text messages can help people truly free themselves of their addiction, this research has shown that texting could be a powerful tool to help people to walk away from cigarettes for good. The MRC has been tackling the problem of smoking for over half a century, and we're committed to funding research that has the potential to change so many people's lives."

Perhaps this method can carry over across the pond to the U.S. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, cigars, and pipes also have deadly consequences, including lung, larynx, esophageal, and oral cancers.

The harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. An estimated 88 million nonsmoking Americans, including 54% of children aged 3-11 years, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers.

Sources: The Lancet and The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention