Study shows benefits of daily texting

Credit: Michelle Liu/Photo Staff Credit: Michelle Liu/Photo Staff

A study in New Zealand demonstrated that providing motivational support through daily text messages to young cigarette smokers might help them quit smoking. The New Zealand Ministry of Health provided funding for a charitable trust organization called The Quit Group, which enables the development of innovative cessation programs to help New Zealanders quit smoking. The programs vary using television, radio, print campaigns, and a national telephone quit-line.

The Quit Group deployed STOMP (STop smoking Over Mobile Phone), a program targeted toward 16- to 24-year-olds to help them quit through text messages ranging from advice and support to facts about the health benefits of quitting. A clinical trial involved 1700 participants in which half were sent supporting text messages and the other half were sent generic health messages. Of the group who received motivational texts, 28 percent self-reported that they had quit smoking after 26 weeks. Of the group that received generic texts, only 13 percent said they had quit.

Tina Robinson, a senior directing major, said of the text messages, “I don’t think it would help, because when I smoke, I don’t care about the health risks.” According to studies, the majority of participants who quit did not succeed long-term.

“I know smoking [is] extremely unhealthy for me. I’ve seen the effects of smoking. Personally, I don’t like being reminded of that and I think I would be angry at the text messages. On a good day, I would appreciate them, but on a bad day, they would just make me upset,” said Robinson.

A review of the study showed that 33 percent of participants who reported they had quit at the end of the study had not smoked four weeks after their quit date. When reviewed again after 22 weeks, only 16 percent said they still had not had a cigarette.

Kelley Shell, a health promotion specialist at Student Health Services, said that on average, people attempt to quit smoking seven times before they are successful. “People often minimize the power of the physical addiction,” said Shell. “Nicotine is incredibly addictive. People become addicted physically, mentally, and their behaviors become tied to using tobacco, so the addiction is pretty complex.”

Shell believes that cessation programs that provide support through text messaging can work. “It seems to be a helpful approach because it’s one way to get regular, encouraging messages to individuals who are dealing with nicotine withdrawal symptoms and feelings of wanting to give up.”

A sophomore directing major wants to stop smoking, but cigarettes have become a part of her routine, so she has found it difficult to quit. “I think supportive text messages would help a lot and I would absolutely be interested in a program like that.”

Student Health Services offers many options to help people quit. Smokers can meet with a health promotion specialist who will work with them to determine the best plan of action and meet with them regularly to support them through the quitting process, free of charge. Students, faculty, and staff can purchase nicotine patches and gum at a discounted price. They also offer an 8-week group program for staff members who are quitting. They have not yet created a group for students, but if there is interest, the group may be expanded.

Any member of the campus community interested in quitting smoking can call Student Health Services at (412) 268-2157 to schedule a smoking cessation appointment.