Government agencies and NGOs have for long been trying to devise new methods to make people quit smoking. Now, researchers in the US, say texting could go a long way in making smokers actually kick the butt. While the US Food Drug and Administration plans to use graphical warning labels to help people stop smoking, researchers from US’ Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine suggest another strategy: text messaging.
The team found that smokers who received a text messaging intervention were more likely to abstain from smoking relative to controls. “Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable global health problems, and text messaging has the promise to reach a wider audience with minimal costs and fewer resources,” said senior researcher Lori Scott-Sheldon.
Text messaging (short message service, SMS) interventions provide health education, reminders and support using short written messages. SMS interventions can be adapted to fit an individual’s health needs in his or her natural environment. The messages of support can be as simple as “You can do it!” or “Be strong.”
Using meta-analysis, a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies, the researchers conducted the most extensive systematic review of the literature to date. This included 20 manuscripts with 22 text messaging interventions for smoking cessation from 10 countries.
“The evidence provides unequivocal support for the efficacy of text messaging interventions to reduce smoking behaviour, but more research is needed to understand for whom they work, under what conditions, and why,” said Scott-Sheldon.
The paper appears in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth.