How Text Messages Can Help You Quit Smoking

How Text Messages Can Help You Quit Smoking

Taryn Williford
Dec 14, 2011

Reaching your get-healthy goal is only a few text messages away. At least that's what one group of researchers found. By sending strategic texts to a group of regular smokers, researchers were able to help 46 percent more smokers quit their habits than the control group. Here's how they did it—and what you can do to text your way to a smoke-free life outside of the lab.

Anybody who's ever downloaded Angry Birds knows that mobile technology can be a huge distraction. But while distractions are a terrible timesuck when you're trying to get work done or start cleaning the apartment, they can become a welcome respite when you're actively trying to take your mind off of something. Like quitting smoking, for instance.

A group of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine created a study centered around an invented text messaging program called txt2stop. They ultimately found that it successfully encouranged more smokers to drop their habits long-term:

The study started with 5,800 smokers, age 16 or older, who were willing to make an attempt to quit smoking within the next month. Half received supportive and encouraging text messages designed to help them stay tobacco-free, five messages a day for the first five weeks and then three messages a week for the next 26 weeks. The other half received text messages every 14 days thanking them for taking part in the study.

The text messages sent to the research group covered topics like health risk facts and quitting tips, all with the goal of inspiring and preparing the participants to stick with their plans to quit. Research participants were also able to request extra text help during weker moments, for example, by texting "crave" a particpant would recieve "an instant message on how to deal with cravings."

And how did they do?

Fully 10.7 percent of smokers who received the text messages succeeded at quitting smoking, compared to 4.9 percent of smokers who received only generic text messages. Quitting was defined as six months of not smoking, with no more than five cigarettes smoked during this period. This was biochemically verified.

Almost twice as many were able to quit. It's worth a shot, right?

If you're willing to try to quit smoking—maybe as a New Year's Resolution?—it's easy to apply the results of the txt2stop program study to your own life:

  • Rely on "text support." Appoint a supporting friend or family member as your quit-smoking text support. Ask them to send you a quick motivational note each day. There are a few sites around the web (here, here and here, for instance) that collect motivational sayings for smokers trying to quit.

  • Try QuitJuice. For less than $10 per month, you can sign up for QuitJuice, a service that will send you motivational stop-smoking messages every day via email, text or voicemail at whatever time of day you choose ($7.95 per month, or $18.95 for 3 months).

Want some other break-the-habit tech strategies? Check the Unplggd archives:

(Images: Flickr member Cristiano Betta licensed for use under Creative Commons, photoillustration,

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