Texting, Not Smoking

Texting, Not Smoking

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A new effort to help teens quit smoking makes use of one of teens’ most constant companions—the mobile phone. According to the program’s developers, 75% of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 own a cell phone, so “there is immense potential for mobile technologies to affect health awareness and behavior change among teens.”[1] Aside from the “cool factor” of the text message, recently published data suggest that text messaging helped almost 11% of smokers stop smoking, compared with almost 5% of those in a control group.[2]

Developed by smoking cessation experts, SmokefreeTXT is a free text message cessation service that provides 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips to teens trying to quit smoking. The initiative is part of a larger site—Smokefree Teen—developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).[1] SmokefreeTXT is a key component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to develop mobile health programs as a way to implement more healthful lifestyles. Along with SmokefreeTXT, Smokefree Teen offers several social media pages to connect teens with cessation tools, including QuitSTART—an interactive quit guide for teens that delivers cessation and mood management tips, tracks cravings, and monitors quit attempts.

Once they sign up for SmokefreeTXT, teens receive text messages timed according to their selected quit date. Following their quit date, they will continue receiving texts for up to six weeks—a critical piece of the SmokefreeTXT service, as research shows that cessation support continues to be important beyond the first few weeks of quitting. Teens can sign up online at teen.smokefree.gov or text QUIT to iQUIT (47848).

Nearly 20% of teens are current smokers and most will continue smoking into adulthood unless efforts are made to help them quit now.[1] Many teens want to quit, but few use evidence-based cessation resources to support their quit attempts. By connecting with teen smokers on their mobile phones, NCI hopes to more effectively engage young people in quitting with proven cessation tools and strategies.

Jill Shuman, MS, ELS
Published January 17, 2012


  1. NCI launches smoking cessation support for teens. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Website. http://www.nih.gov/news/health/dec2011/nci-05.htm. Published December 5, 2011. Accessed January 3, 2012.
  2. Free C, Knight R, Robertson S, et al. Smoking cessation support delivered via mobile phone text messaging (txt2stop): a single-blind, randomised trial. Lancet. 2011;378(9785):49-55.