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Study uses txt to help smokers quit

Clinical Trials Research Unit
The University of Auckland


Media Release

Study uses txt to help smokers quit

AUCKLAND, August 8, 2002: A new approach to helping young smokers quit by using mobile phone text messaging will go on trial this month when the Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU) at The University of Auckland begins a world-first study involving 1700 young people.

Dr Anthony Rodgers, Co-director of the CTRU, said STOMP, or the Stop Smoking with Mobile Phones Trial, has been developed particularly for 18-35 year olds, who have the highest smoking rates but lowest uptake of existing smoking-cessation programmes.

“Young adults are a key group – most smokers start in their teens, and for those who continue about half will be killed by tobacco-related diseases. Smoking remains the leading cause of lost healthy life years in New Zealand.

“Most smokers want to quit eventually. At any point in time, about a fifth of smokers want to give up straight away. This trial will test a new way to help those who want to quit achieve their goal.”

Research shows just as many young people want to quit as older smokers, but they don’t tend to use nicotine replacement and other effective treatments as much and success rates are lower.

“However, text messaging is very heavily used by young people,” said Tim Corbett, who helped develop the short text message service (SMS) messages. “Over three million text messages are sent daily in New Zealand, almost all by teenagers and young adults.”

Participants will be divided into two groups, one intensive and one less intensive. All who complete the study, including having visits to check smoking levels, will get one month’s free text messaging. The intensive programme includes text messages that count down to a quit day and reinforce good reasons to quit, such as: “Who else r u giving up smoking 4? Write down 4 people who will get a kick outa u kicking butt. Your mum, dad, m8’s?”

Other messages will provide education, distraction and feedback, including “TXT crave”, whereby participants can pull interesting TXT messages on demand when they feel like lighting up.


The opportunity to tailor the programme individually was key to developing content relevant to Maori. Dr Tania Riddell and Dr Dale Bramley helped produce a number of messages on topics such as Te Reo, Maori legends and Maori traditions. It is hoped that Maori particularly stand to benefit because of the opportunities to personalise messages, high current smoking rates and demographics.

Trish Fraser, Director of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), said the programme was an imaginative approach that had solid potential to help a key group.

“The targeted age group are very savvy with this technology and need new interventions that will work for them,” she said.

Supported by the National Heart Foundation, Auckland UniServices Limited, Vodafone and Alcatel, the six-month trial will measure the success of the programme and help participants count down to a quit date and develop a network of support people.

Dr Diana North, Medical Director of the National Heart Foundation, said the programme was innovative and welcome: “Reducing smoking rates is a key step for reducing heart disease and stroke, both leading killers in New Zealand. It could also bring immediate benefits relevant to young adults, such as improved fitness and reduced second hand smoke for young children.”

Smokers who own Vodafone mobiles and want to quit can register interest for the trial at www.stomp.co.nz, or by calling 321 or texting 3211.

Ends

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 a research programme investigating the causes, prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease and other major health problems. Since it's inception in 1989, the CTRU has co-ordinated 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.

Auckland UniServices Limited
Auckland UniServices Limited is wholly owned by The University of Auckland and is responsible for developing and managing the University’s commercial activities. UniServices also owns and develops the University’s intellectual property estate, and forms new companies based around the University’s intellectual property.
http://www.uniservices.co.nz

The National Heart Foundation of New Zealand
The Heart Foundation funds about $1.2 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
Vodafone Group Plc is the world's largest mobile telecommunications company with 100 million proportionate customers. The company provides quality services to 2.12 million Australian customers, 1.04 million New Zealand customers and 77,000 Fijian customers. It has interests in mobile telephone networks in 28 countries over five continents. For further information please visit www.vodafone.co.nz
Note: Vodafone is a trademark spelt with an 'f' and not a 'ph'.

Alcatel
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 Alcatel at http://www.alcatel.com

ENDS

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