Twitter Helps Smokers Kick the Butt

By: Gizbot Bureau

When people in a smoking cessation programme tweet each other regularly, they are more successful at kicking the habit, says a study. Specifically, daily "auto-messages" that encourage and direct the social media exchanges may be more effective than traditional social media interventions for quitting smoking.

"Our results indicate that incorporating social media-delivered auto-messages from trained counsellors were effective in promoting smoking cessation," said Cornelia Pechmann from the University of California-Irvine. "The twice-daily messages encouraged people to tweet their group members, which made them more accountable for quitting," Pechmann added.

Twitter Helps Smokers Kick the Butt

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The researchers found that overall engagement in two consecutive Tweet2Quit groups was high, with 78 percent of members tweeting their fellow study subjects at least once during the 100-day study.

The average number of tweets per person was 72, and 60 percent tweeted past the 30-day mark. Group No.1 had a smoking cessation rate of 42 percent. Using lessons gleaned from that trial, researchers tweaked the auto-messaging process, and Group No. 2 had a success rate of 75 percent.

Members of the Tweet2Quit's two closed, 20-person groups communicated online via Twitter for 100 days. Participants each received a free supply of nicotine patches, along with daily automated text messages. They were encouraged to use a web-based guide to develop a cessation plan and were asked to tweet their group at least once a day about their progress.

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There were no expert facilitators in the groups; the smokers themselves supported one another. However, the daily auto-messages encouraged and directed peer-to-peer discussions, and distinct tweeting spikes occurred when the messages were sent. "The Twitter environment created a sort of party dynamic," said Pechmann.

"That's especially important for social smokers. In addition, group leaders naturally emerged, facilitating the online conversations. These leaders played a critical role in keeping people engaged," the researcher added. The findings were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Source: IANS

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