Text messaging as a form of smoking support
The Journal of Smoking Cessation has published a new review of evidence that texting can be integrated in to smoking cessation programmes, which can help to maintain instant contact with clients and provide useful guidance for relapse prevention.
Tobacco use, primarily from cigarette smoking, is the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide, and is associated with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, and various types of cancers, including lung, oral cavity, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, colorectal, bladder and kidney.
Despite the harm and costs tobacco use causes, there have been great efforts related to tobacco control in recent decades. There have been great strides in influencing social norms to prevent the initiation of tobacco use among adults and youth, promote cessation efforts, and reduce exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. Such smoking-control strategies include smoke-free laws, counter-advertising campaigns, and a hike in tobacco excise taxes, which have all contributed to a reduction in smoking prevalence. At the individual level, access to smoking cessation facilities and improvement in treatments of smoking dependence has provided smokers, as well as doctors and other health professionals, with more resources to make smoking cessation programs more customisable and effective.
Cigarettes are currently marketed more heavily towards adolescents and young adults. In this context, texting may be considered as an innovative intervention strategy to help prevent smoking initiation among the adolescent population and aid in smoking cessation and relapse prevention efforts. Texting is an act of communicating through the interchange of brief messages between mobile (cell) phones. With advances in mobile technology and the popularity of mobile cell phones, texting has even become the primary source of communication among some groups, but especially for adolescents and young adults. More than 75% of teenagers text, sending on average 60 texts per day. Texting has also been utilised as an intervention strategy for other health-related conditions such as asthma medication adherence, improve compliance for self-care with heart failure patients, eating disorders, weight loss, and binge drinking.
Texting is advantageous for health promotion efforts since it is low cost and widely accessible, almost all phones have the ability to send and receive texts, texting does not require a great amount of skills, text messages can be received at convenience, and will even be received at a later time in the event the phone is shut off.
Nine studies were reviewed for this article, five were texting-only interventions and four also involved web-based components that offered educational and abstinence tools. All the studies involved in this review reported that texting appeared to be an effective method for promoting smoking cessation and preventing relapse. Texting was also well received by study participants.
The review also highlights that much more research is needed in this area, for example to assess whether this approach can target smokers who are not already motivated to quit, or investigating whether a combination of social networks with texting to see if this will help to increase effectiveness for smoking cessation and relapse prevention.