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How to use SMS messages to quit smoking?

SMS messages used to help people give up smoking are short, direct and supportive comments which inform the patient of the options they have open to them to improve their health condition.

People living in both so-called developed countries and developing countries use mobile phones. Similarly, everyone around the world suffers from one of the same health problems: smoking. Now, with mobile phones and mHealth, quitting smoking is within everyone’s reach all thanks to SMS.  

6 minutes of reading
Publication: 05.09.2017
Última modificación: 06.28.2022

How to use SMS messages to quit smoking?

The term mHealth is an abbreviation of the phrase mobile Health, and a derivation of another English term, eHealth, which supports information technology in health services. mHealth means that health services can utilize mobile phones (or tablets) to support users with medical and health services. Because it’s been so useful to the public, several apps have been created, but the most widespread mobile service has been SMS – particularly in the treatment and prevention of smoking.

Specialized health services supporting smokers in the difficult task of giving up smoking have found SMS campaigns have been fundamental in reducing the impact of smoking in the population, especially among those who have decided to take the difficult decision to quit.

Several studies have found that sending SMS messages like “Stay strong” or “You can do it”, are especially beneficial for ex-smokers or smokers who are trying to give up in moments of weakness.

A study by Brown University, Rhode island, looked at 22 programs in 20 countries around the world that use SMS messages to reduce smoking. The study sought information on how an SMS campaign focusing on a specific health problem could affect patients’ decision-making, and how receiving SMS messages could positively influence their wellbeing.

Supportive SMS messages

Receiving a personalized SMS message that directly references a specific health problem can be useful in helping a patient become aware of what options they have to move away from the things that aggravate their illness. This is the aim of the SMS campaigns in the field of mobile health.

The SMS messages used to help people give up smoking are short, direct and supportive comments which inform the patient of the options they have open to them to improve their health condition. They can also include educational messages to improve health education.

Scheduled messages

SMS must adapt to the lives of the patients, and the messages should integrate in a natural way into the daily lives of each person.

SMS should be programed regularly, and the content should be a reminder, with messages that invite immediate action, but can also be extended into messages that provide more information.

How SMS can be effective in helping people to give up bad habits

The Brown University study demonstrates the effectiveness of using SMS campaigns to combat smoking, but the most effective methods are still being researched.

Sending SMS messages is a low-cost service that can reach a huge number of participants. Moreover, launching an mHealth campaign doesn’t require huge resources.

Since every mobile user has the SMS messaging service at their fingertips, it is an easy, direct and cheap method of influencing people in a positive way and obtaining immediate results by encouraging positive changes in their lifestyles, which then become healthier. Giving up smoking has never been more on the public agenda.The vast majority of people now think of it as vastly important and understand the long term consequences.


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