Success Story

National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT SMS program doubled the smoking quit rate.

The National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT program doubled the smoking quit rate among teens when they received text message support.

Challenge: How do you help smokers change their behaviors and quit?

The National Cancer Institute wanted to help struggling smokers quit their addiction and live healthier lifestyles. Quitting smoking, however, is notoriously difficult. Cravings can overwhelm even your strongest resolutions, and in the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to cheat. The National Cancer Institute wanted to launch a program that would help inspire adults and teens to stay smoke-free every day.

Solution: Launch a personalized text message campaign to help teens and adults defeat their cravings

The National Cancer Institute worked with Upland Mobile Messaging to launch SmokefreeTXT, a targeted text messaging campaign. SmokefreeTXT regularly texts out encouraging messages to adults and teens who are trying to quit smoking. For example, one message reads: “Smoking 1 may seem like the answer but you know its not. Stay strong! Cravings fade even without smoking & you’ll be proud for staying focused.”

The program starts with a 14-day countdown to quitting, followed with six weeks of motivational messages to help quitters follow through and stay smokefree.  The program also helps track people’s moods and craving levels as they struggle to quit. The message content and timing is personalized for each individual based on his or her target quit date.

Results: Quit rates among teens doubled

The program’s stellar results garnered press attention in Politico, where Erik Auguston, one of the National Cancer Institute’s behavioral researchers, discussed the results. According to Auguston:

  • After one month, 12% of teens stopped smoking
  • At six months, 6% have successfully stayed smoke free. This is more than double the typical quit rate for teens, which is around 2-3%.

Twice as many teens are able to quit smoking thanks to receiving the text messages.

“We’re trying to leverage the function of emerging technologies to do two things: One is to more effectively engage smokers in health behavior change … as a means to really engage these people in an intervention, and then the other thing is we’re trying to use these tools as a way to greatly expand our reach,” Augustson said.

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