Smoking Cessation: Theres an App for That

smoking cessationThere seems to be an app for everything, and smoking cessation is no exception. A new application known as Text2Quit sends encouraging text messages to help smokers who want to kick the habit. A recent study followed users of the program and found that those who used it were more than twice as likely to quit smoking as those who did not. The study was published Friday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Lorien Abrams at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University is the developer of the app and led the study. Researchers followed a group of over 500 smokers who were trying to quit, giving about half of them the texting program. Six months later more than 11 percent of the smokers getting the texts had quit, compared to only about 5 percent of those who did not. Participants were given saliva tests to make sure they were not sneaking cigarettes.

The Text2Quit program offers interactive communication with the smoker. In addition to receiving messages reminding them how much money they could save if they quit, or giving advice on how to stick with stop smoking drugs, smokers can send texts to the program when they need help. For example, texting “CRAVE” can trigger a response that includes a tip to keep from thinking about smoking.

The Text2Quit smoking cessation app also tracks the user’s progress toward quitting. For example, one message might include information on whether goals were met, and encourages further reductions in the number of cigarettes smoked or progress toward other objectives. The user sets a quit date and works toward that target. The app helps identify smoking triggers and behaviors, and responds to requests for help.

Dr. Michael Fiore is a smoking cessation expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who says the app shows real promise, as well as evidence of effectiveness. He did say that Text2Quit will not work for everyone, and all options must be both science-based and fit the individual. There are other smoking cessation apps available, although none of the other programs have been studied as extensively as Text2Quit. The National Cancer Institute developed SmokefreeTXT. And offers the QuitSTART app, which provides tips to use during cravings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42 million Americans smoke. This is nearly one-fifth of American adults. Smoking causes about one in five deaths in the U.S., and remains the number one cause of preventable death. According to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of cellphone users receive and send text messages, so using text messaging to help in smoking cessation is an intriguing idea for many.

The Text2Quit app communicates with the user through text message, email, and web tracking. According to their website, most mobile carriers provide the service, and it is available to over 96 percent of people with cell phones. Once the user signs up they complete a smoking profile, and the messages are then tailored to the individual. Smoking cessation messages are sent from the app, and allow the user to reply to certain questions. Keywords can be texted to the app to receive information, but original questions cannot be sent.

By Beth A. Balen

American Journal of Preventive Medicine
ABC News
Counsel & Heal

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