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Want to quit smoking? Try text message support

Researchers behind the "txt2stop" trial find that regular, supportive texts encouraging participants to persevere doubled success rates over a control group.

A study of almost 6,000 people trying to quit smoking cigarettes finds that those who receive regular motivational text messages are twice as likely to quit than those who receive neutral text messages thanking them for participating in the study.

"Help! I'm surrounded by temptation!" Funkdooby/Flickr

The txt2stop trial, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, measured cotinine (a chemical in tobacco) levels in the participants six months after participants reported to try quitting.

The randomly selected txt2stop group received five text messages a day for five weeks and then three a week for the following 26 weeks, with encouragements such as: "Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over."

The txt2stop group was also able to text words such as "crave" and "lapse" to receive a motivating message during episodes of weakness and craving.

The control group, meanwhile, received only one message every two weeks thanking participants for being part of the trial.

Only 4.9 percent of the control group abstained from smoking throughout the six months, as determined through cotinine testing, while more than twice as many members (10.7 percent) of the txt2stop group succeeded.

"We are delighted with the results and hope that text motivation will now become a standard part of the quitting process," says Glyn Mcintosh of QUIT, which helped develop the text messages and find volunteers for the study.

The researchers, whose findings appear in The Lancet this week, say that txt2stop worked well across all age and social groups in the study.