Smokers use text messages to help quit

The use of text messages for communication is well documented. But could they also have health benefits? Potentially, if handled properly.

According to a press release from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, a text messaging program could be used to help people stop smoking. Over the course of six months, more than 500 smokers were recruited and used in a test to see if those receiving text message support would have a better chance to quit smoking.

The group was separated into two . Half of them used a program called Text2Quit and the other half received self-help materials. The text messaging services offered individuals advice, a place to turn for support, the ability to reset quit dates and a game to distract them.

The results are telling. More than 11 percent of smokers who used a text-messaging program to help them quit remained smoke-free during the testing time. compared to 5 percent of controls.

"Text messages seem to give smokers the constant reminders they need to stay focused on quitting," says Lorien C. Abroms, ScD, MA, an associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH and the lead author of the study. "However, additional studies must be done to confirm this result and to look at how these programs work when coupled with other established anti-smoking therapies."

Because of the prevalence of mobile devices, text messaging can become a powerful tool. It is the perfect way to deliver information directly into the hands of those that need it.