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Text messages that urge smokers to quit can double smoking cessation rates, a new study suggests. The “txt2stop” study found that 10.7 percent of smokers receiving motivational texts about quitting smoking were smoke-free six months later, compared with 4.9 percent of smokers not receiving supportive texts, Reuters reports.

The study of 5,800 British smokers sent half of participants text messages with encouragement and advice about topics such as keeping weight off while quitting smoking, and dealing with cravings. The other half received texts that thanked them for participating or included messages not related to smoking.

The motivational text group received five text messages a day for the first five weeks, and then three per week for the next 26 weeks. Group members also could text the words “crave” or “lapse” to receive instant messages if they felt they needed them. A typical text said, “Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over,” according to a news release by the Medical Research Council, which funded the study.

The researchers confirmed the participants’ reports that they had stopped smoking by testing the levels of a chemical found in tobacco called cotinine in their saliva.

“To scale up the txt2stop intervention for delivery at a national or international level would be technically easy,” said study author Caroline Free of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The study is published in The Lancet.


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