Texting program improves smoking cessation rates

July 29, 2011

A smoking cessation program in which participants received mobile phone motivational text messages significantly improved smoking cessation rates at 6 months and the method should be considered for inclusion in smoking cessation services, according to a study published June 29 in The Lancet.

A smoking cessation program in which participants received mobile phone motivational text messages significantly improved smoking cessation rates at 6 months and the method should be considered for inclusion in smoking cessation services, according to a study published June 29 in The Lancet.

The study, called txt2stop, was a single-blind, randomized trial in which personalized smoking cessation advice and support was offered using mobile phone text messages. The study took place between October 15, 2007, and June 1, 2009. Smokers aged 16 years or older who owned a mobile phone were randomly assigned to intervention (2,915) or control (2,885) using an independent telephone randomization system.

Participants in the intervention group received 5 text messages a day for the first 5 weeks and then 3 a week for the next 26 weeks. The messages included motivational messages and positive feedback, they emphasized the benefits of quitting smoking, offered information on the consequences of smoking, and provided detail on how to quit and abstain. Participants also could receive personalized information from a database of 713 messages and were allowed to interact with one another via text messaging for further support. The primary outcome was self-reported continuous smoking abstinence, biochemically verified at 6 months.

Results of the study showed that smoking cessation support delivered via text messaging doubled quit rates at 6 months, and the intervention was effective among all socioeconomic groups and age groups. Though the results appeared to be similar to other behavioral support interventions, such as group and 1-to-1 counseling, the control group quit rate and the absolute difference in quitting between the intervention and control group was lower than in many trials of group or 1-to-1 counseling, the authors noted.

“On the basis of these results the txt2stop intervention should be considered as an addition to existing smoking cessation services,” the authors said. In addition, they noted, “Our finding that the txt2stop intervention increased biochemically verified smoking cessation at 6 months raises the possibility that mobile-technology-based interventions might be effective in changing other behavioural risk factors for diseases.”