Effect of Messaging Content on Engagement With a Short Messaging Service for Perioperative Smoking Cessation

Research Summary:

We determined whether a tobacco cessation intervention targeting brief perioperative abstinence (“quit for a bit”) increased engagement of surgical patients with treatment compared with an intervention targeting long-term postoperative abstinence (“quit for good”).

Aims and Methods

Surgical patients who smoke were stratified according to intended duration of postoperative abstinence, and then randomized within strata to receive either a “quit for a bit” or a “quit for good” intervention. Both employed initial brief counseling and short message service (SMS) to deliver treatment up to 30 days after surgery. The primary outcome of treatment engagement was defined as the rate at which subjects actively responded to system requests delivered via SMS.


The engagement index did not differ between intervention groups (median [25th, 75th] of 23.7% [8.8, 46.0] for “quit for a bit” group (n = 48) and 22.2% [4.8, 46.0] for “quit for good” group (n = 50), p = .74), nor did the proportion of patients continuing SMS use after study completion (33% and 28%, respectively). Exploratory abstinence outcomes on the morning of surgery and 7 and 30 days after surgery did not differ between groups. Program satisfaction was high in both groups and did not differ. There was no significant interaction between intended abstinence duration and any outcome, ie, alignment of intent with intervention did not affect engagement.


Tobacco cessation treatment delivered via SMS was well accepted by surgical patients. Tailoring an SMS intervention to focus on the benefits of short-term abstinence for surgical patients did not increase engagement in treatment or perioperative abstinence rates.

Human Resources Today