Texting young smokers on their mobile phones using personalised messages, could potentially help them quit, according to research published this month.

A randomised controlled trial conducted in New Zealand found 28% of young smokers in an ‘active’ texting group gave up smoking after six weeks of messaging compared with 13% in a control group that received just one message every two weeks.

The active texting group agreed a ‘quit day’ with the researchers and five messages per day were sent in the week leading up to that day and for four weeks afterwards. On the quit day participants also received a free month’s worth of text messages and were encouraged to text family and friends to tell them what they were doing.

Several other text message services were provided for the active intervention group including a Quit Buddy service to put participants in touch with someone else with similar characteristics and quit days. SMS polls and SMS quizzes were also available.

A total of 1705 smokers with an average age of 25 took part in the trial, with 852 allocated to the active group. Quit rates remained higher in the active texting group after 26 weeks of treatment but the control group’s quit rate increased too making the difference between the two groups less marked.

The active group also showed a higher level of confidence (33%) that they would be able to stay away from cigarettes than the control group (20%). At this stage, though, the researchers lost track of high numbers in both groups.

The researchers, reporting their findings in Tobacco Control, say that text messages providing smoking cessation advice and support or distraction are “affordable, personalised, age appropriate and not location dependent.”

They add: “It could assist traditionally hard-to-reach groups, being easily deliverable across wide geographic areas and benefiting from the fact that mobile phones are with the person most of the day and mobile ownership is generally much higher than for computers, especially among the lower socio-economic groups.”

However they say future studies should provide a further assessment of the long term quit rates associated with this smoking cessation method and also look at ways of integrating texting with other smoking cessation programmes.

They say trials in developing countries are particularly important given the impending scale of the tobacco epidemic and the need for smoking cessation programmes in these regions.


Do u smoke after txt? Results of a randomised trial of smoking cessation using mobile phone text messaging [PDF, 116K]