Cell phone-based tobacco cessation interventions

Delivered via text or video messages, cell phone-based tobacco cessation interventions generally include cessation advice, motivational messages, or content to distract from cravings. Messages may be tailored to participant characteristics (e.g., gender, age, ethnicity) or personalized to individual participants. Messages may be sent automatically or sent based on participants’ needs. Some programs include interactive features or connect participants to each other virtually for additional support (, ).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased quit rates

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that cell phone-based tobacco cessation interventions help smokers quit smoking long-term (, , , , West 2015). Programs that use spoken messages, text messages, or combinations of cell phone and internet-based components have been shown to help smokers quit, though effectiveness varies by intervention (CG-Tobacco use, , , ).

Programs that send text messages and include web or in-person elements are slightly more effective than text-only interventions (), and sending text messages on a fixed schedule increases cessation more than sending a decreasing or variable number of texts (). An evaluation of Text2Quit suggests that pairing cell phone-based programs with quitlines may also increase quit rates (). Used with text message-based cessation programs, smartphone applications can support quitting (Buller 2014); additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of smartphone applications alone (, ).

Cell phone-based tobacco cessation interventions, particularly text message interventions, are cost-effective (, , ) and can be scaled to serve large populations ().

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Text2Quit, an automated, personalized, text message cessation program that offers advice, support, and reminders along with a personalized web portal and email follow-up (Text2Quit), and StopMySmoking, a young adult-focused program that offers 24/7 craving support through on-demand assistance, message-timing control, and optional pairing with a quit buddy (StopMySmoking), are two examples of cell phone-based interventions.

The US Department of Health and Human Services also provides several targeted text message-based smoking cessation interventions which include SmokefreeMOM, Smokefree Teen, Smokefree Vet, Smokefree Espanol, and Smokefree VET en Espanol (SmokeFreeTXT), along with two Smokefree smartphone apps, QuitGuide and QuitSTART (Smokefree.gov Apps). 

Implementation Resources

SmokeFreeTXT - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Smokefree.gov. SmokeFree text messaging programs: SmokefreeTXT, Smokefree VET, SmokefreeMOM, Smokefree Teen, Smokefree Espanol, and SmokefreeVET en Espanol.

Smokefree.gov - Smokefee.gov. It doesn't matter where you start. Just start.

Smokefree.gov - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Smokefree.gov. Resources to quit smoking: Smokefree VET, Smokefree Women, Smokefree Teen, Smokefree Espanol, Smokefree 60+, SmokefreeTXT, QuitGuide app, and QuitSTART App.

Smokefree-Health care professionals - Smokefree.gov. Resources for health care professionals.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

CG-Tobacco use - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Tobacco.

Cochrane-Whittaker 2016* - Whittaker R, McRobbie H, Bullen C, et al. Mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews. 2016;(4):CD006611.

Cochrane-Civljak 2013* - Civljak M, Stead LF, Hartmann-Boyce J, Sheikh A, Car J. Internet-based interventions for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews. 2013;(7):CD007078.

West 2015 - West R, Raw M, McNeill A, et al. Health-care interventions to promote and assist tobacco cessation: A review of efficacy, effectiveness and affordability for use in national guideline development. Addiction. 2015;110(9):1388-1403.

Ybarra 2016* - Ybarra ML, Jiang Y, Free C, Abroms LC, Whittaker R. Participant-level meta-analysis of mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation across different countries. Preventive Medicine. 2016;89:90-97.

Abroms 2014* - Abroms LC, Boal AL, Simmens SJ, Mendel JA, Windsor RA. A randomized trial of Text2Quit: A text messaging program for smoking cessation. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;47(3):242-250.

Buller 2014 - Buller DB, Borland R, Bettinghaus EP, Shane JH, Zimmerman DE. Randomized trial of a smartphone mobile application compared to text messaging to support smoking cessation. Telemedicine Journal and E-Health. 2014;20(3):206-214.

Spohr 2015* - Spohr SA, Nandy R, Gandhiraj D, Vemulapalli A, Anne S, Walters ST. Efficacy of SMS text message interventions for smoking cessation: A meta-analysis. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2015;56:1-10.

Scott-Sheldon 2016* - Scott-Sheldon LAJ, Lantini R, Jennings EG, et al. Text messaging-based interventions for smoking cessation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 2016;4(2):e49.

Riaz 2015* - Riaz S, Sykes C. Are smartphone health applications effective in modifying obesity and smoking behaviours? A systematic review. Health and Technology. 2015;5(2):73-81.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

SmokeFreeTXT - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Smokefree.gov. SmokeFree text messaging programs: SmokefreeTXT, Smokefree VET, SmokefreeMOM, Smokefree Teen, Smokefree Espanol, and SmokefreeVET en Espanol.

Text2Quit - Text2Quit. Customized help to quit smoking with text messaging-based support.

StopMySmoking - StopMySmoking. Quit smoking in six weeks with daily text messages designed for young adults. Center for Innovative Public Health Research.

Smokefree.gov Apps - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Smokefree.gov. Smokefree Apps: QuitGuide and QuitSTART.

Date Last Updated

Dec 20, 2016