“It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times” – Mark Twain
Quitting smoking habits is one of the toughest. It is primarily because of the addiction, and also because of the easy availability of cigarettes. Many of us have tried to do away with the habit consciously but ended up engaging in it again after a gap of a month or two.
Now, a twitter-based support group has come up with a programme to help smokers quit the habit. The researchers claim it to be twice as effective as the traditional methods.
The study showed that 40% smokers who took up the Tweet2Quit programme ended up quitting the habit compared to 20% people who followed traditional methods. The study was conducted over a period of 60 days. It was published in the journal Tobacco Control.
Our current results indicate significant possibilities for using social media as a delivery mechanism for health prevention intervention, specifically in smoking cessation, said Cornelia Pechmann, from University of California, who was part of the research team. Because of the low cost and high scalability of social media, Tweet2Quit has tremendous potential to deliver low-cost tobacco treatments on a global scale, Pechmann added.
The members of this small, private, virtual self-help group receive automated messages daily encouraging them to take part in debates on twitter.
Open ended questions like “what will you do when you feel the urge to smoke?” give the participants an opportunity to debate and discuss about their anxiety and issues on the social media platform. Sometimes it is easier to discuss such issues on a virtual platform as one can express themselves much better without any inhibitions.
On average, about 23% of tweets were in response to these automated texts, while 77% were spontaneous, the study shows.
Researchers claim that such studies show how support groups can help quitting efforts. It further proves how social media can be used for forming support groups which has a wider reach.
Incorporating social media-delivered automessages written by tobacco treatment experts was effective in promoting smoking cessation, said Pechmann. The twice-daily messages encouraged people to tweet their group members, which made them more accountable for quitting, she said.
The online virtual support groups provide us with novel insights into the process by which smokers are committing to quitting and supporting each other in these efforts, said another researcher Judith J Prochaska from Stanford University. Our findings provide evidence to help re-establish clinical recommendations on the utility of support networks for aiding cessation, added Prochaska.
Quitting a habit, especially one like smoking has always been tough, and such initiatives are of immense assistance to the ones trying to move towards a healthier life.