A new Cochrane systematic review has suggested that mobile phones could play key role in encouraging people to quit smoking.
The authors of the review found that people were more likely to stay away from cigarettes over a six-month period if they received motivational messages and advice to their mobile phones.
Text messages are already used by health services to send appointment reminders and to encourage people to stick to treatment programmes.
Mobile phones may offer a low cost solution for delivering smoking cessation services. However, an earlier systematic review by Cochrane researchers published in 2009 identified only two trials for mobile phone-based programmes and did not find a long-term improvement in quit rates.
The new review incorporates data from three additional studies and comes to a different conclusion. In total, the researchers analysed results from five studies in which over 9,000 people trying to quit smoking received either motivational messages and quitting advice up to several times a day or control.
Some studies incorporated interactive elements, such as polls, and provided extra messages on request to help beat cravings. In one study, participants were sent links to short video diary clips following a role model's attempts to quit smoking, with the aim of promoting some of their strategies. Those in control groups received text messages less frequently, or were given online information or support over the phone.
There was some variation between the study results but the larger, more recent studies showed larger improvements in quit rates after six months. Overall, the researchers estimated that mobile phone programmes could nearly double the chance of quitting for at least six months from 4-5 percent in control groups to between 6-10 percent in intervention groups.
"Mobile phone programmes appear to be a useful option to offer those who want to stop smoking," said lead researcher, Robyn Whittaker of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand.