Quit Smoking for the New Year? Your Cell Phone Can Help.

People with smartphones seem to regularly check them throughout the day for email, text messages, and useful information like directions or restaurant menus. It can be like an ongoing conversation. Now one of those conversations could be a mobile health-counseling session that can help you quit smoking.

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"Smoking is the one thing we can control that has an impact on new cancer cases," said Paula Caron of NCCC's Lung /Esophageal/Thoracic Cancer Program. "There are hundreds of aps available online to help people stay tobacco free, and we're seeing an increased interest in smartphone programs among those in their 20's and 30's."

Text messaging programs can double a user's chances of quitting

Lorien Abroms, associate professor of Prevention and Community Health at George Washington University, talked about online tobacco cessation programs at the NCCC 4th Annual C. Everett Koop Conference last fall. She noted that while few of the more than 250 smartphone apps designed to help people quit smoking have proven to be effective, text messaging programs can help.

Abroms, whose research focuses on communication technologies for smoking cessation and other health behaviors, says that studies show texting programs can double a user's chances of quitting, at least in the short term. Most are easy to sign onto, some are free, and others are inexpensive and possibly cheaper than paying a trained smoking cessation counselor.

Tips customized to address your cravings and triggers

The text messages are unobtrusive and confidential ("To stay away from cigs, find new habits & spend time with nonsmoking friends. Create a smoke free environment to help cut cravings. Reply HELP for help"). Each program is personalized through the information collected when you sign up: if your trigger is coffee, you'll get messages that help with that. And texting can offer real time help with fighting a craving ("Cravings last less than 5 minutes on average. To help distract yourself, try sipping a drink slowly until the craving is over").

Abroms' program, text2quit, sends personalized texts timed around your quit date, offers advice from peer ex-smokers, sends encouraging messages, and even includes a website with games to distract you during cravings. If you need a little additional motivation, an email component helps you reach out to other subscribers. The key is that it's available anytime and anywhere you have your cell phone−even in a bar at 11 p.m. when you've just been offered a cigarette. Texting programs can also keep track of your personal goals (Great! You reached your goal of cutting down to 5 cigs yesterday. See if you can cut out more before your quit date,"), the money you've saved not buying cigarettes, and even calculate the years of life you've gained by not smoking. One woman told Paula Caron that the tool she found most helpful when she quit was a program that sent her daily texts about how many days she had been smoke free, and then calculated the money she had saved each day by not purchasing cigarettes. These programs mimic what you might get in a counseling session, Abroms says: "It's like having a health coach in your pocket."

Thinking of quitting for the New Year?
  • Tobacco treatment specialists at DHMC:
    Call for a free appointment at 603-653-9456, stop by Tuesday or Thursday, 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. in the Health Education Center, Level 4 - East Mall, or start with one of these links:
  • Interactive tool: Are you ready to quit smoking?
  • Interactive tool: How much is smoking costing you?

The Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon also offers a smoking cessation clinic for anyone hoping to end their dependence on tobacco (local clinics offered at other locations.)

Sign up online for helpful tips delivered to your phone
  • ; teens can receive free tips designed for younger smokers at smokefree.txt
  • American Cancer Society's QuitBuddy
  • text2quit; this program is free only in certain states (none in New England), but can be purchased online.

January 02, 2013