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BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d4220 (Published 06 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4220

Text messages help smokers to quit

“This is it! - QUIT DAY, throw away your fags. Today is the start of being QUIT forever, you can do it!” This and other motivational text messages helped adults from the UK quit smoking in a recent trial. The texts also told recipients where to go for help, how to beat cravings, and what to do after a lapse. After six months of texting, including five a day for the first five weeks, one in 10 recipients managed to quit completely (10.7%). Controls did half as well (4.9%, relative risk of quitting for intervention group 2.20 (95% CI 1.80 to 2.68)). Controls received fewer texts, which were unrelated to smoking, such as “Thanks for taking part! Without your input the study could not have gone ahead!”

Researchers verified abstinence with salivary concentrations of cotinine, and also checked that the texts didn’t cause any extra traffic accidents or thumb pain. Almost 600 adults took part. All wanted to quit, and most had tried before.

Two thirds of the world’s population now own a mobile phone, say the researchers, and scaling up an intervention like this could be relatively straight forward. A barrage of texts seems to work about as well as other behavioural approaches such as counselling. Cost effectiveness analyses are under way.

A 10% quit rate is low, says the accompanying editorial, but every little helps. Researchers should persevere with an approach that has the potential to reach all sections of society equally. Mobile phone ownership is largely independent of income and social class, unlike smoking.

CT screening for lung cancer looks promising; questions remain about harms

In 2002 researchers from the US launched a trial comparing low dose computed tomography (CT) with chest radiography for lung cancer screening among …

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