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Text messaging services can help you stop smoking

Offering people telephone support by mobile phone, such as by text messages, can help people who smoke to kick the habit, according to a new review of studies.

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?

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Smoking can harm your health, but it’s often difficult to stop. This is because many people who smoke get addicted to nicotine, a chemical in tobacco.

There are good treatments to help you give up smoking but, even so, people often struggle and may have to try several times before they are able to stop smoking for good.

Studies have shown that you’re more likely to stop smoking for good if you have support, either from a healthcare professional or counsellor, or from a support service such as the NHS stop smoking service. These kinds of counselling services can help you keep up your willpower and provide tips on how to cope when you’re tempted to smoke.

Telephone advice and self-help materials can also help you stop smoking if you don’t want face-to-face advice.

In this review, researchers looked at whether offering support that people could access through their mobile phone - like text messages, video messages, and mobile websites - made it more likely that people would stop smoking.

The researchers pooled the results of five studies of over 9,000 people to see if there was any good-quality evidence that these kinds of support services helped people stop smoking.

What does the new study say?

People who used mobile phone support services were more likely than people who didn’t use them to stop smoking for at least six months.

In the largest study, in around 6,000 people who received text messages, around 9 in 100 people who were supported had still given up smoking after six months, compared with 4 in 100 who didn’t receive text message support.

How reliable is the research?

Reviews like this one, which pool the results of different studies, can give very reliable results, but only when the studies included are carried out in a similar way and include similar groups of people. In this case, though, there were some differences in the way the studies were done, so the results are not as clear as they could be.

What does this mean for me?

This study suggests that receiving support, tips, and encouragement through your mobile phone could be another tool to help you stop smoking. There may be apps that you can subscribe to for this kind of support. Otherwise your GP, practice nurse, pharmacist or counsellor can help you choose a support service that suits you.

Published on November 14, 2012

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