A new study – led by the London South Bank University (LSBU) – has delved into the success that text messages and advice on vape flavours could have on those trying to make the all-important switch.
The team behind the ground-breaking research consisted of professors and medical doctors from various universities including University College London and the University of East Anglia.
Through social media, the researchers recruited 1,214 eligible participants, all of whom smoked heavily and were interested in trying to quit by using vapes.
The study participants were ‘highly nicotine dependant’ and on average, smoked 18 cigarettes a day – with 90 percent saying they would smoke within the first 30 minutes of waking up.
Researchers tested five remote interventions to help people quit, including advice comprising of tailored device selection, e-liquid nicotine strength and tailored e-liquid flavours, with brief information on relative harms and text message support.
Offering the different groups various interventions – whether including all methods, some, or none – permitted information in order to determine which combination was the most effective.
Of the five interventions, the SMS and flavour advice approaches quickly proved to be the most effective in aiding those trying to make the switch.
Lynne Dawkins, a professor of nicotine and tobacco studies at LSBU was trusted to steer the study.
“The simplicity of tailored support through flavour advice and supportive messages could have a huge impact in helping people lead smoke-free lives.”
The first phase of the SMS study involved contacting vapers and seeking their help in carefully crafting encouraging text messages to be sent to current smokers as an incentive to quit.
The second step targeted 202 current smokers and asked them to rate the messages from the first phase in an online survey.
Texts were ranked based on several categories, including whether they were interesting, inoffensive, positive or enthusiastic.
Those ranking highest for understandability, clarity, and believability were then passed on to a group of vapers to begin formulating a final set of messages.
During the third and last phase, the team behind the study sent the messages to 603 smokers as part of a randomised optimisation trial.
After three months, the study concluded that a quarter of those who participated had quit, and a further 13 percent had reduced their cigarette consumption by more than half.
Those who received help in choosing a vape flavour alongside supportive messages were 55 percent more likely to give up in three months than those who did not receive these services.
According to the researchers, ‘70 percent of the participants who received the text messages found them useful.’
Interestingly, less than a third of the smokers in the study ‘wanted something that tasted like tobacco’, further demonstrating the importance of flavour options for adults trying to make the switch.
Banning non-tobacco flavours would entail vapes losing their primary purpose of distracting and discouraging smokers from the taste of cigarettes, with many smokers in the study not wanting the reminder.
After analysing the responses, a significant association was found between the simple text messages and quitting rates, demonstrating the effectiveness of the study.
The authors of the study said:
“Text messages are effective smoking cessation interventions. However, there is little research on text message interventions for people who smoke and wish to quit by switching to vaping.”
Professor Dawkins also said:
“We encourage researchers to use the present mobile phone text message programme and adapt it to target populations and relevant contexts; for instance, by considering the use of disposable vapes.”
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