iQUIT: Smartphone App Helps Teens Quit Smoking Through Text Messages

A smartphone app designed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) texts teens to help them quit smoking. The text messaging program is called SmokefreeTXT and lasts about eight weeks. The messages (written in “teen speak”), and their timing, are based on texts sent by the participating teens, describing their tobacco cravings and moods. One text says, “Smoking 1 may seem like the answer but you know its not. Stay strong! Cravings fade even without smoking & you’ll be proud for staying focused.”

Erik Augustson of the NCI’s Tobacco Control Research Branch says teens generally don’t respond well to traditional quit-smoking messages, because they don’t see themselves as smokers and underestimate how difficult it is to quit. Teens who sign up for the texts choose a quit date. The program checks in daily to see how the teens are doing. It responds to the teens’ texts with suggestions, advice and encouragement, providing tips about controlling their moods and managing cravings.

About 500 teens are enrolling each week, Augustson said. He noted the teens participating in the program have a quit rate of about 12 percent after one month, and 6 percent at six months. The rate, while low, is higher than the average teen quit rate of 2 to 3 percent. “With 75 percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 owning a cell phone, there is immense potential for mobile technologies to affect health awareness and behavior change among teens,” Augustson said in a news release.

A study published in 2011 found text messages that urge smokers to quit can double smoking cessation rates. 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.

Population of focus: Youth

Links to resource:

  • Teens can sign up for the program at teen.smokefree.gov or text QUIT to iQUIT (47848).
  • Abstract of study — Smoking cessation support delivered via mobile phone text messaging (txt2stop): a single-blind, randomised trial.
  • Press release on the NCI website
  • Article on The Partnership at DrugFree.org

Date: 2013

Organization: National Cancer Institute