Want to see your loved ones quit smoking? Then, send them motivational text messages, as they double their chances of giving up the habit, scientists say.
A British Medical Research Council study, published in the medical journal The Lancet, found that participants were twice as likely to banish their habit after receiving messages designed to encourage quitting.
Dr. Caroline Free, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who led the “txt2stop” trial, said: “Text messages are a very convenient way for smokers to receive support to quit.
“People described txt2stop as being like having a ‘friend’ encouraging them or an ‘angel on their shoulder’. It helped people resist the temptation to smoke,” Dr. Free was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
The trial tested the effects of motivational messages designed to encourage quitting on almost 3,000 smokers.
The messages, designed by experts with the help of smokers, provided encouragement up to “quit day”, advice on keeping off weight while quitting, and help with craving.
For example, one message read: “This is it! — QUIT DAY, throw away all your fags. TODAY is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!”
Another, focusing on craving, read: “Cravings last less than five minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over.”
In the trial, randomly selected smokers received five text messages a day for five weeks, followed by three per week for the next six months.
People were able to receive instant messages at times of need by texting the word “crave” or “lapse”.
A similar sized “control” group of smokers were sent texts simply thanking them for their participation, requesting confirmation of contact details, or mentioning a range of topics not connected to smoking.
Saliva tests for a tobacco break-down chemical called cotinine were used to verify that smokers really had quit.
The results showed a 10.7 per cent success rate for those receiving the motivational texts compared with 4.9 per cent for members of the control group.
Dr. Max Parmer, director of the clinical trials unit of the Medical Research Council, said: “Smoking kills more than five million people yearly, and two out of every three smokers have said at some point that they would like to give up.
“By carrying out a large scale trial like this to see whether text messages can help people truly free themselves of their addiction, this research has shown that texting could be a powerful tool to help people to walk away from cigarettes for good.
“The MRC has been tackling the problem of smoking for over half a century, and we’re committed to funding research that has the potential to change so many people’s lives.”