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TXTing helps Maori quit smoking

Media Release

TXTing helps Maori quit smoking

AUCKLAND, 1 June 2005: Results of a world-first University of Auckland study that used text messaging to help young smokers quit shows the novel approach is effective in helping Maori kick the habit.

The results, reported today in the international journal Tobacco Control, show quit rates at six weeks of young smokers receiving active text support on STOMP, or the Stop Smoking with Mobile Phones Trial, were double those in a control group.

Undertaken in 2002 by the Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) at The University of Auckland, the trial was developed to target young smokers who have the highest smoking rates but are least likely to enrol in existing programmes. The results of the study as it relates to Maori will be published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on June 3.

Co-authors of the report, Dr Dale Bramley and Dr Tania Riddell from the School of Population Health at the University, said the approach had real promise in helping young adults kick the habit, and harnessing the global boom in texting could be a new weapon to combat a similarly large escalation in youth smoking.

“The treatment effect was consistent in participants of different ages, sex, income level or geographic location – and was also effective for young Maori who have not been able to be reached via traditional smoking cessation programmes,” said Dr Bramley.

While the prevalence of smoking has declined overall in New Zealand since the 1980s there is no such trend evident for Maori. In a survey undertaken in 2002, 42% of 14 -15 year old Maori females smoked at least weekly and 34% smoked daily.

Dr Riddell said the study’s findings point to cost effective ways of helping young Maori give up smoking.

“Because it is affordable, age-appropriate and its content can be customised, we believe this approach is capable of reaching out and recruiting not only young Maori but all groups,” said Dr Riddell.

The text messages used in the trial were developed by a team that included young adults, Maori health researchers and experts in adolescent health and smoking cessation. About half the messages related to quitting and the other half were of general interest.

“Being able to tailor the programme to suit the needs of individuals was the key to its success amongst Maori participants,” said Dr Bramley. “We produced a number of messages on topics such as Te Reo, Maori legends and Maori traditions.”

The trial was supported by Auckland UniServices Limited, the commercialisation company of the University, and it was conducted with the help of The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand, The Cancer Society of New Zealand, Vodafone and Alcatel.

The Ministry of Health has said it will support the project and has committed to working with the CTRU and providers of mobile phone services on ways to make the development more widely available to young people.

1705 young smokers from around New Zealand (who all wanted to quit) enrolled in STOMP. Half of them were in an “active” group and received intensive text intervention leading up to an agreed quit date and one month of free texting.

This included regular personalised text messages that encouraged them to give up smoking or provided distraction at the key moment when tempted to light up.

Director of the CTRU, Dr Anthony Rodgers said the trial worked in several ways. “Free texting acted like “chewing gum for the fingers” and helped with distraction as people texted friends and family. We sent personalised texts on things like coping with urges to smoke, avoiding weight gain, and just plain general interest stuff on sports, music and fashion.

“Using text crave, participants could “pull” a message of support. Text polls and quizzes added further distraction. A lot of people picked up on text buddies too, with people who were due to quit around the same day helping each other out.”

Typical messages of support were: “Who else r u giving up smoking 4? Write down 4 people who will get a kick outta u kicking butt. Your mum, dad, m8s?”

Quit rates remained high at six months, but Dr Rodgers said further study was needed to more closely quantify progress, extend the range of follow up testing and establish how success compared with other interventions over the longer term.

Future studies would also look at the use of newer multimedia phones which offer further opportunity for providing quit information and distraction.

There are over a billion mobile phone users globally, with over 70 million text messages sent daily in the United Kingdom. Dr Rodgers said that China now consumed one third of the world’s cigarettes and already had more than 250 million mobile phone users with more than five million new subscribers each month.


The Clinical Trials Research Unit
The Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) is a research unit within the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at The University of Auckland. The unit conducts research programmes investigating the causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease and other major health problems. Since its inception in 1989, the CRTU has coordinated clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people in Australasia, Asia and Europe. The CTRU employs a multi-disciplinary group of more than 50 health research workers including epidemiologists, statisticians, study managers, data managers, computer programmers and administrative support staff. For more information please visit

Auckland UniServices Limited
Auckland UniServices Limited is a wholly owned company of The University of Auckland. Established in 1988, UniServices manages all the University's commercial research and consultancy partnerships, forms new business ventures based on University research and owns and develops the University's intellectual property estate.

Our mission is to apply the research and expertise of the University to client needs and business opportunities, enabling organisations based on new knowledge to grow, expand the University's research capability and benefit the broader community. For more information visit

The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand
The Heart Foundation funds about $2 million dollars worth of research annually to increase knowledge about the causes, prevention and treatment of heart and circulatory diseases.

The Heart Foundation is a non-profit, non-government organisation that aims to promote good health for all New Zealanders and to reduce the suffering and early loss of life from heart disease.

Vodafone New Zealand Ltd is part of Vodafone Group Plc, the world’s largest mobile community, with more than 151.8 million proportionate customers worldwide. The company has equity interests in 26 countries over five continents and Partner Networks in a further 13 countries.

As at December 2004 Vodafone New Zealand has more than 1.8 million customers on its fully digital network providing coverage to 97 percent of the population. For further information visit

The Alcatel Group designs, develops and builds innovative and competitive communications networks, enabling carriers, service providers and enterprises to deliver any type of content, such as voice, data and multimedia, to any type of consumer, anywhere in the world. Relying on its leading and comprehensive products and solutions portfolio, stretching from end-to-end optical infrastructures, fixed and mobile networks to broadband access, Alcatel’s customers can focus on optimising their service offerings and revenue streams. With sales of EURO 25 billion in 2001 and 99,000 employees, Alcatel operates in more than 130 countries. For more information visit

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