Study finds text messaging support program doubles smokers’ chances of quitting

Nicotine replacement therapy, phase-out schedules, support groups, prescription drugs, hypnosis and e-cigarettes are among the many ways smokers can try to kick their habit. According to a new study, smokers should add text messaging programs to that list.

Signing up to receive text messages with personalized progress updates, tips to fight cravings and quotes from successful quitters can double your chances of quitting, according to research from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. The six-month study involving 503 participants found that 11 percent of smokers who used a text messaging program to help them quit successfully did so, compared to 5 percent of the control group. 

The study evaluated the effectiveness of one particular text messaging program: Text2Quit. While the program’s name spotlights its text messaging feature, it also gives users the option of receiving emails and accessing a personal web page to help them in their quest to quit smoking. The user can set the cadence of messages, and messages are customized based on the specified quit date.

Text2Quit users can text keywords to the program to get specific help in times of need. For instance, texting “CRAVE” requests help with cravings, while texting “GAME” will give users a trivia game to play to fight cravings.

“Text messages seem to give smokers the constant reminders they need to stay focused on quitting,” according to Lorien C. Abroms, an associate professor at the Milken Institute and lead author of the study. While the study concluded that the results “provide initial support for the relative efficacy of the Text2Quit program,” Abroms notes that additional studies are needed to confirm this and how text messaging programs work alongside other anti-smoking therapies. 

The findings of the Milken Institute study appear to confirm a previous UK study published back in 2011.

It’s worth noting that there are other anti-smoking text messaging programs out there, including SmokefreeTXT, which is offered by SmokefreeTXT is free, while a four-month subscription to Text2Quit costs $29.99. In both cases, message and data rates may apply.

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