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Are All Quit-smoking Texts Created Equal?

Are All Quit-smoking Texts Created Equal?

Text messaging, including quit smoking texts, is a proven form of treatment to promote behavioral and physical health issues (including quitting smoking). So, it makes sense why many tobacco cessation programs offer quit-smoking texts. But are all text messaging programs to help people quit tobacco the same?

The answer: No.

With many programs that offer quit-smoking texts, text messages are tailored only to the information you provide at enrollment, such as whether you’re using medication (y/n) or how confident you are. The texts don’t adjust based on your pattern of engagement, and this isn’t good.

Here’s why: A sizable portion of smokers disengage early from web-based programs without being exposed to the content or features that can promote abstinence. And when people try to go it alone to quit, they are less successful.

Most people who smoke relapse within just 8 days when trying to quit on their own.

For quit-smoking texts to be most effective and prompt continued engagement in a quit-smoking intervention, here are 4 key elements to look for:

  1. Are the text messages dynamically tailored?

Research shows that text message tailoring can significantly improve the effectiveness of an intervention. People are more likely to actively process information if they perceive it to be personally relevant.

To support quitting tobacco, text messages should map to evolving tobacco users’ needs and behaviors as they change over time. For example, if tobacco users haven’t stopped smoking yet, text messages should be customized to their stage in the process. Or, if a smoker is using quit medication (such as patches or gum), text messages should reference that medication and tailor guidance appropriately.

  1. Are text messages tailored to unique populations (e.g., parents, pregnant women and e-cigarette users)?

Pregnant smokers and new moms know the scrutiny they face, and they need tailored non-judgmental support to quit.

The triggers for e-cigarette users can be different than smokers, plus the terminology for vaping is different than smoking.

And parents of kids who vape are looking for tailored tips and guidance to support a loved one to quit.

The content and journey for each participant here is unique—and the texts used to support them should reflect this.

  1. Are text messages available to guide tobacco users on how to best use quit medication?

Using quitting medications can double the chances of quitting successfully, and text messages can help tobacco users understand how to use patches, gum and lozenges effectively.

This includes reminding participants to use their medication and to chat with an expert if they have questions. Text messages can also help participants understand medication side effects and when to step down their usage.

In short, quit-smoking texts should provide automated reminders and support for this crucial component of any quit attempt.

  1. Is text messaging offered as part of a multimodal program?

While quit-smoking texts are a powerful communication tool, they are one tool in the toolkit. Multimodal programs place participants in the driver’s seat to choose the ways they want to connect and receive support.

They allow participants to use live chat with a coach when they have a specific and immediate quit medication question. Or, they can reach out for human support from a thriving online community of peers when midnight cravings hit.

Text messages are a great way to remind participants that these additional tools are available to keep them engaged in the program—and to support their quit journey.

Other key features to look for when buying tobacco cessation

Dynamically tailored quit-smoking texts are one critical piece of an effective program. Learn about other key elements to look for when buying a tobacco cessation program. Check out our Buyer’s Guide for Workplace Cessation Programs to know how to make the best choice for your company’s needs.


Megan Jacobs, MPH
Megan Jacobs, MPH

Managing Director of Product, Innovations

Megan Jacobs is responsible for the design, delivery, and evaluation of the EX Program. Most recently, Jacobs led the EX Program team responsible for the first evidence-based text messaging program to help e-cigarette users of all ages quit. She formed her expertise in mHealth interventions and public health campaigns with her work at the University of Michigan Health Service, DC Department of Health, and the National Vaccine Program Office. Her public health work over the past 15 years has applied technology to behavior change ranging from adolescent sexual health to vaccinations. Jacobs received her Master of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and is also a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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