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Quit smoking with help from text messages

The Miriam Hospital is testing a program that helps smokers quit the habit with the help of regular text messages. (WJAR)

It’s being called a "quit smoking coach" that you can carry in your pocket.

Text My Quit is a texting program that is being studied by researchers at The Miriam Hospital.

"Over 80 percent of Americans use text messaging and for a lot of us,” said Beth Bock, a senior research scientist at The Miriam, "it's actually the preferred method of communication."

That prompted the thinking: Why not help people quit smoking via text?

"We did a pilot study back in 2013,” said Bock. "We had 60 people enrolled."

"The program provided eight weeks of text messages to give them tips on how to quit smoking, how to handle their cravings," she said.

Bock said the other half simply received inspirational messages.

"And we found that people who got the intervention program were four times more likely to quit than people who got our generic placebo messages, which are general motivational messages like 'Today's going to be a really great day.'"

So now, a larger national study, called Text My Quit.

Bock said it’s a new and improved version of the original study that doesn't involve phone calls or office visits. People simply sign up online to see if they're eligible.

"For this study we are looking for adult smokers. So, you have to smoke at least a cigarette a day," Bock said.

Participants have to plan a quit date within 30 days. They're looking for 280 study participants. So far, they have 236.

"We have people from 22 states right now. We have people from California and Texas and Illinois," said Bock.

Those who are enrolled will receive eight weeks' worth of either quit smoking tips or inspirational messages.

"It also has a program included that if you're choosing to use medication to help you quit smoking, they'll help you manage those," Bock said.

The research is being funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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