Texting program to help teens quit smoking
January 1st, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Texting program to help teens quit smoking

Teens love their cell phones. In an effort to help young smokers kick the habit, the National Cancer Institute is creating a new program called Smokefree T-X-T. It's a free text message service that provides 24 hour encouragement, advice, and tips to teens trying to quit smoking.

And it's easy. Teens sign up and select a reasonable date to quit. After that, text messages timed to their selected quit date are sent on a regular basis. Following their quit date, they will continue to receive texts for up to six weeks. Smoking experts say six weeks is a critical time, because that's when most people need the support to stay off the tobacco for good. The government agency also provides a website where teens can talk to one another about their efforts to quit.

According to the NCI, 20 percent of American teens are smokers and most will continue to smoke as they age. Even though many teens want to quit, many don't know how. So the NCI is hoping this modern day advice line will help some kids through the difficult process of giving up smoking.

SmokefreeTXT is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' efforts to develop mobile health programs to Americans. The federal agency has been designing mobile programs with a team of experts over the past few years.

At the beginning of 2012, the Smokefree Teen program will launch a free smartphone app called QuitSTART, which is an interactive quit guide for teens that delivers cessation and mood management tips, tracks cravings, and monitors quit attempts, much like the text program.

"With 75 percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 owning a cell phone, there is immense potential for mobile technologies to affect health awareness and behavior change among teens," said Erik Augustson, a behavioral scientist in NCI’s Tobacco Control Research Branch.

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