Want to quit smoking? Social media helps young adults kick the butt

  • PTI, Toronto
  • Updated: Jun 11, 2015 17:27 IST

Young adults have a better chance at kicking the butt if they use social media to quit smoking rather than a traditional method, says a new study.

The success rate of the social media method is double that of the traditional method, finds the study that compared the success of a social media-based campaign called Break It Off with Smokers' Helpline,a telephone hotline for young adults looking to quit smoking.

Three months into the programme, 32% of smokers who used the apps and web tools had called it quits compared to 14% of their peers who used the telephone-based support.

"These findings suggest that the creators of public health campaigns need to evaluate how they use social media channels and social networks to improve health, especially with regards to younger demographics," says Bruce Baskerville, a senior scientist at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, who led the study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco.

The Canadian Cancer Society launched Break It Off in January 2012 to engage young adults in smoking cessation through an interactive website and social media. The campaign, which compares quitting smoking with ending a romantic relationship, provides users with an interactive website and smartphone app to encourage smoking cessation.

In Canada, young adults aged 19 to 29 have the highest rate of smoking, but they report low use of traditional cessation services, such as helplines.

However, young adults make up the largest demographic of social media users, with 91% using Facebook and one-third actively engaged in microblogging sites, such as Twitter.

"Traditional cessation services can have limited reach and this reduced visibility lessens their impact in a digital era," said Baskerville.

"Because they are such heavy users of social media, these platforms provide an alternative and successful way of reaching smokers who are less likely to relate to other cessation programmes," he said.

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