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Health & wellness

Be Well

Text messages may help smokers quit

Text-messaging anti-smoking phrases may be an effective method to motivate a smoker to quit long-term, according to a review of studies looking at anti-smoking interventions.

The review of five studies, which included 9,000 smokers, found that smokers were more likely to quit if sent motivational text messages and quitting advice. In some cases, when participants felt the urge to smoke, interactive messages that required the participant’s response were helpful.

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Those who used the cellphone interventions appropriately were 2 to 4 percent more likely to quit for six months or more compared with those who used other programs, including an Internet quit-coach program or a video-based cessation program.

Text messaging may be considered a simpler and more effective intervention because messages are sent directly to the participant anywhere and at any time, the authors wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Text messaging anti-smoking phrases may be an effective method to motivate a smoker to quit.

CAUTIONS: In each of the studies, the researchers relied on self-reports from the participants on the length of time they had quit smoking. Also, none of the studies looked at smartphone or other downloadable smoking cessation applications to determine whether hand-held devices, rather than text messages themselves, may have contributed to the effectiveness of the programs.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Cochrane Review, November

Secondhand smoke and children in cars

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Many parents who smoke expose their children to secondhand smoke while riding in cars, according to a new study from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

The researchers interviewed nearly 800 smokers whose children were patients at 10 hospital-based clinics across eight states. They were asked whether they smoked in their car and whether their pediatrician had discussed having a smoke-free car policy.

More than half of the parents reported that they or someone else had smoked in the car while their child was present, potentially exposing them to the harmful effects of secondhand smoking. Only 24 percent of the parents instituted a strict smoke-free policy, which included not allowing anyone including themselves to smoke in the car.

A child’s exposure to secondhand smoke from even one cigarette in a confined space can lead to respiratory infections. Only 20 percent of parents reported that their pediatrician asked about their smoking habits, and only 12 percent reported being told to avoid smoking in the car.

BOTTOM LINE: Many parents may be exposing their children to smoke in cars and are not counseled by their pediatricians to institute a smoke-free car policy.

CAUTIONS: The findings are based on the parents’ self-report and may underestimate some children’s true exposure to secondhand smoke in cars. The study did not follow up with the participants to see whether there were any harmful health effects.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Pediatrics, December

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