Twitter and texts could help you stop smoking, study says

Chatting about their efforts to kick the habit can help people stop smoking, reports Psych Central.

Researchers from Stanford University and the University of California, Irvine studied whether Twitter could help people to kick the habit, and found that it could. Even better, they didn’t even need to be communicating with a real person to benefit: daily automated texts reminding them of their goal also helped.

Cornelia Pechmann, a professor of marketing at UCI, and Judith J. Prochaska, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford, recruited two groups of 20 people for their study, each of which communicated on Twitter for 100 days. They also got a free supply of nicotine patches and daily automated text messages. They were asked to create a stop-smoking plan and to post at least one tweet a day to share how well it was (or wasn’t) going.

Both groups engaged with the programme, with 78% of people tweeting at least once, and 60% keeping going longer than a month. The first group had a stop smoking rate of 42% after 100 days (25% after six months is about average). The second group did even better, with 75% giving up. That’s because the researchers refined the use of text messages with this group, based on which had been most supportive and effective first time round. When it came to Twitter, talking about when they’d quit, how they coped with challenges, and possible rewards for keeping going were all associated with quitters staying on track.

Pechmann said that the community aspect of the experiment was an important part of its success: ‘The Twitter environment created a sort of party dynamic,’ she says. ‘That’s especially important for social smokers. In addition, group leaders naturally emerged, facilitating the online conversations. These leaders played a critical role in keeping people engaged.’

Diane Shipley