Texting can help smokers quit the unhealthy habit, reveals new research

Text messaging can help college-age smokers quit the unhealthy habit, and is an economical and easy-to-deploy technology, according to a study published at the Journal of American Medical Association's (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

While the study's authors, from Linköping University in Sweden and the Cambridge Institute of Public Health in England, write that since they were able only to assess the short-term effects, the results were comparable with traditional interventions, the text-based program "has the potential to improve the uptake of effective smoking cessation interventions" in the long-term.

The research involved a 12-week clinical trial that collected data from 1,590 college-age smokers in Sweden, split into two groups, who all had a goal of quitting smoking within one month of enrollment. The group receiving messaging were sent 157 support texts; the control group was sent one text every two weeks thanking them for participating in the study.

Results reveal text played a role in helping smokers quit the habit. Eight-week abstinence was reported by 203 in the text intervention group and 105 in the control group. A four-week cessation period was reported by 161 in the text group and 102 in the control group.

"The effectiveness of this fairly low-technology intervention was comparable with previous, more sophisticated, tailored text-messaging interventions as well as traditional face-to-face-smoking cessation interventions," the authors write.

Text-based intervention may also prove useful for other disease and health issues given its low cost and simple technical features, according to the authors. 

In addition, there have been many other studies showing the use of such technology. In one, texting supportive reminders regarding lifestyle choices to patients with heart disease helped improve treatment results. Another study revealed that such intervention is twice as effective at helping smokers quit the habit compared to self-help initiatives.

For more information:
- read the JAMA report

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