The majority of adult smokers (approximately 70 percent) would like to quit smoking and more than half of all smokers have tried to quit smoking in the past year. Smoking not only increases your risk for lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, it also increases your risk for bone density loss, infertility, and at least 14 different types of cancer including: cancer of the bladder, cervix, kidney, esophagus, mouth, pancreas, pharynx and stomach.
Unfortunately, smoking cessation can be hard, and the knowledge that it is bad for you and that it increases your risk for lung cancer amongst other health issues, is often not enough to quit smoking all together. Luckily, new and innovative ways are constantly being developed to help you quit smoking, and one in particular seems to be working!
Recently, a group of researchers from Cochrane, New Zealand, reviewed data from 5 separate studies, which included 9,000 smokers. The studies all involved individuals who were trying to quit smoking, and they examined whether or not text messages could help them with their smoking cessation endeavors. The text messages contained quitting advice and/or motivational content and they were sent to the smokers between one and several times daily. There was also a control group of smokers who were sent few or no text messages over the six month study period. One of the studies also included links to short motivational videos which followed a role model’s journey through smoking cessation, with the goal of promoting the role model’s healthy strategies.
The analysis of these studies found that regular text messages can almost double the likelihood of successful smoking cessation over a 6 month period. More specifically, 4 to 5 percent of the control group who did not receive motivational texts, quit smoking, while 6 to 10 percent of the people who did receive the texts and video links quit smoking. According to lead researcher, Robyn Whittaker of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand, “Mobile phone programmes appear to be a useful option to offer those who want to stop smoking…The largest trial that we included in our review, which involved 5,800 people in the UK, can be considered definitive. At the very least it shows the efficacy of a mobile phone intervention in a developed country with good tobacco control policy. However, we cannot say that all text messaging interventions will be effective in all contexts.”
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Text and video messages may be a cost effective and simple way to help you quit smoking. However, they are not yet widely available and if you really want to increase your odds of success, and reduce your risk for lung cancer amongst other health disorders, then you should take a more comprehensive approach. People who speak with a counsellor have a much higher smoking cessation success rate than those who go it alone.
Creating a comprehensive quitting plan, setting a quit date and telling everyone about it will also make it more likely for you to follow through. Thinking of all the reasons to quit and writing them down as a reminder can also be helpful. When you quit, you should try to focus on what you will gain (think better health, more energy, more money, fresher breath, clearer skin etc.) as opposed to what you feel you are giving up. Finally, consider starting an exercise regime (if you don’t exercise regularly already) because it helps to reduce stress and it can vastly increase your chances of successfully quitting.