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Supportive Text Messages May Improve Chances of Quitting Smoking

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Smokers trying to quit may be helped by receiving supportive text messages, a review of studies suggests. Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand evaluated five studies involving more than 9,000 people who were trying to quit smoking. Some of the smokers received texts up to several times a day, which contained quitting advice or motivational messages. Others received less frequent text messages, or were given online information or support over the phone.

The researchers concluded that text messages doubled the odds of quitting smoking within six months, from 4 to 5 percent in the group receiving fewer text messages or none at all, to 6 to 10 percent of those who received more frequent text messages, NPR reports. While the overall percentage is low, a doubling of the odds of quitting is significant, according to the news report.

The smokers who received regular text messages started with an online support system, and set a quit date. When the day arrived, they received text messages such as, “Today, you should get rid of all the ashtrays in the house or car; you should have a plan because it’s going to be hard in the first few days; make sure you have a plan to get support from friends and family.”

Smokers could receive more personal responses. For instance, a person who texted the word “crave” in response to a supportive text would receive tips about how to work through cravings, such as “take a walk” or “eat a little something.”

The findings are published in the Cochrane Review.

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