An international study has shown that programmes that use text messaging to help people stop smoking can double the chances of them being able to kick the habit for up to a year.

The study involved 2,600 people taking part in four trials conducted in Norway, New Zealand and Britain where text messages were used as a way of giving smokers daily advice, support and encouragement to stop.

If smokers felt the need to have a cigarette they could use the service to text the word “crave” to receive immediate advice on how to deal with their cravings.

Two of the studies, which looked at the importance of the text messages, found that the service doubled the chances that smokers would quit for over six weeks.

A further two studies focused on a program in Norway that used text messages, emails and a dedicated website to support smokers trying to quit. The study found that smokers who used the program were twice as likely to stop for up to one year.

Researcher at the clinical trials research unit at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Robyn Whittaker, said: “It makes a lot of sense. Mobiles are well-integrated in daily lives. The programmes are using what’s in daily life rather than making people come into a clinic. They’re more proactive, delivering directly to people wherever they are.”

However, the studies also showed that the majority of smokers did not succeed in quitting in the long-term, regardless of the program that they were taking part in.

A review of the study in New Zealand, which used government funding to automatically send users two or three text messages a day before their specified “quit date” and for one month afterwards, showed that one-third did not smoke for four weeks after their quit date yet that figure dropped to 16% after 22 weeks.


Mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation