National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT Has Doubled Quit Rates Among Teens

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The National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT smoking cessation campaign has more than doubled quit rates among teens, according to a recent article in Politico.

SmokefreeTXT texts out messages of encouragement to teenagers trying to quit smoking, targeted to their individual quit date. The program also helps track people’s moods and craving levels as they struggle to quit. According to NCI’s Erik Augustson, the program has caused a significant rise in the percentage of teenage smokers who are able to quit:

[Augustson] says, so far, the teenage text messaging programs’ quit rate is averaging around 12 percent at one month out. At six months, that drops to only 6 percent that have not started smoking again. That may not sound great — but it’s way higher than the typical quit rate for teens, which is around 2 to 3 percent.

Texting Is the Best Way to Reach Teens

One of the reasons for the program’s success is that teens have their phones with them all the time, so phones are a great way to engage with them about their daily habits. A recent Pew Report on Teens, Smartphones, and Texting showed that texting is the absolute best way to communicate with teens – eclipsing email, calling, and social media. 63% of teens text every day, whereas only 6% of teens email every day. 39% of teens never email. 

The article quotes senior US Department of Health and Human Services technology adviser, Audie Atienza:

“Smartphones are great for things that happen day to day,” Atienza said. “So for example, health behaviors: smoking, exercise, diet.”

In a nation where half a million people die every year from smoking-related causes—and another eight-and-a-half million live with serious health problems related to smoking—this is a great way to try and get kids to quit before they face a lifetime addiction.

Increasing Enrollment 100x

The NCI is working to increase teen enrollment in the program through targeted PSAs. Their recent outreach campaign has increased enrollment by 100x.

To enroll in SmokefreeTXT, text QUIT to IQUIT (47848).

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