A new review from New Zealand suggests that cellular phones can help smokers kick the butt.
Led by Robyn Whittaker, a public health physician at the University of Auckland, the review was based on an analysis of four studies: two of text-message only programs and two that used the Internet along with mobile phones to keep up a stream of stop-smoking support.
"It makes a lot of sense. Mobiles are well-integrated in daily lives. The programs are using what's in daily life rather than making people come into a clinic. They're more proactive, delivering directly to people wherever they are," Whittaker said.
Together, the four studies included about 2,600 smokers of all ages.
The reviewers observed that participants in text-message programs were about twice as likely not to smoke after six weeks as smokers in control groups.
They further said that participants in mixed-media programs - cell phone plus Web - were significantly more likely to hang in there for at least six months after their chosen quit date.
"Say people are out with friends and feeling really strong cravings. They can text the word 'crave' directly into the program and they can get a message with suggestions for techniques to get through the cravings or other things to do to distract them such as listen to music or take a walk around the block," Whittaker said.
The reviewers, however, insist that quitting is extremely difficult, and that most people will make several efforts before finding success.
"I'm glad the reviewers are trying to identify new ways to help people quit. What's out there is relatively stagnant.
The protocol hasn't changed in years. But smokers are changing and our care needs to change. We're in a bit of a rut; if this study brings to the forefront the idea that there are other ways we can treat smokers, that's great," said Dr. Rebecca Schane, an internist and pulmonologist with the Center for Tobacco Control Research at the University of California at San Francisco.
The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.