A study published in Lancet Digital Health describes the benefits that instant messaging applications can provide to help people stop smoking.
The researchers conducted a randomised clinical trial in conjunction with an anti-smoking campaign in Hong Kong. Participants were recruited from 68 sites, such as shopping malls and residential complexes and neighbour areas, in all the 18 districts of Hong Kong.
The enrolled participants, aged 18 years and over, had smoked at least one cigarette per day in the previous three months, verified with an exhaled carbon monoxide concentration of 4 parts per million (ppm) or more, owned a smartphone with an instant messaging application installed, and had an interest in stopping or reducing smoking.
Between June 18 and Sept 30, 2017, 1185 participants were randomly assigned to either the intervention (n=591) or control (n=594) groups. Intervention group participants received chat-based instant messaging support for 3 months, offers of referral to external smoking cessation services, and brief advice, or to the control group, in which participants received brief advice alone.
At the six-monthly follow-up, the validated withdrawal rate was significantly higher in the intervention group than in the control group (48 [8%] of 591 in the intervention compared to 30 [5%] of 594 in the control group).
If you want to read the entire detailed study you can access it here.
Mobile instant messaging apps (eg, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat) are popular and inexpensive alternatives to SMS for interactive messaging among all age groups, so it’s interesting to understand how these applications might be a viable way of promoting preventive behaviours.