In addition to advocating for a tobacco tax here in New Hampshire, which will help people quit and prevent many children from starting in the first place, I've been looking for ways to enhance our clinical success in helping our patients quit smoking.  NHMS member Hilary Alvarez, MD, a NH Dartmouth Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine resident in Concord, recently introduced me to a smoking cessation resource that shows promise: automated mobile phone messaging.   

In December, The Cochran Collaboration performed a meta analysis on the impact of text messaging cessation programs and found that mobile phone messages increased the chance of quitting in at least six months … from 4 - 5% in control groups, to between 6 - 10 % in the texting groups.  While the success rate is still low, it was nearly double for those patients participating in the program.  If the impact of a texting program is additive to the impact of a tobacco tax, we could see successful quit rates above 15%. 

In New Hampshire, we have at least two text-to-quit programs that are free to anyone with a mobile phone … excluding charges for texting as determined by your cell phone contract. Unlimited texters need not worry!  

The New Hampshire Tobacco Helpline offers customized quit tips with daily texts or emails.  This service will help your patients set a quit date, battle their cravings, and stay quit for good.  To sign up for this, patients will need to go to this website, fill out the online form and the texts will start coming. 

Smokefree.gov offers a more interactive approach with Smokefree TXT that provides 24/7 encouragement, advice and tips to help smokers quit for good.  The text messages start two weeks prior to and continues for six weeks after a quit date with one, three, and six months follow up check-ins to see how the person is doing.   Smokers receive texts similar to the NH Tobacco Helpline but have an interactive piece that asks them to respond with topics such as their current level of cravings.  The service then responds with tips based on the person's response.  In addition, smokers can get focused messages based on how they are feeling by simply texting CRAVE, MOOD or SLIP to the program when they are having a rough day, or if they have a setback and light up again.  To sign up for this, text "QUIT" to IQUIT (47848) or go the website.     

Take a look, share with your patients, and please let me know if you have other innovative ways to help our patients begin to live their lives smokefree!

Please send your questions or comments to me at president@nhms.org or post a comment below.