Los Angeles, Mar 30: Micro-blogging website Twitter may help smokers kick the butt more efficiently than traditional methods, according to a new study.
Researchers found subjects in one of the first real-time, fully automated, Twitter-based smoking intervention programmes Tweet2Quit - were twice as successful at kicking the habit than those using traditional methods.
The study found Tweet2Quit participants reported 40 per cent sustained abstinence compared to 20 per cent for control participants after 60 days.
"Our current results indicate significant possibilities for using social media as a delivery mechanism for health prevention intervention, specifically in smoking cessation," said Cornelia Pechmann, from University of California.
"Because of the low cost and high scalability of social media, Tweet2Quit has tremendous potential to deliver low-cost tobacco treatments on a global scale," Pechmann said.
Tweet2Quit uses a hybrid approach combining automated messages delivered to small, private, virtual self-help groups of smokers who are motivated to quit via the social media platform of Twitter.
The messages are based on clinical guidelines for smoking cessation and employ positive, open-ended questions that encourage online discussion, such as "what will you do when you feel the urge to smoke?"
On average, about 23 per cent of tweets were in response to these automated texts, while 77 per cent were spontaneous, researchers said. "Incorporating social media-delivered automessages written by tobacco treatment experts was effective in promoting smoking cessation," said Pechmann.
"The twice-daily messages encouraged people to tweet their group members, which made them more accountable for quitting," she said. "The online virtual support groups provide us with novel insights into the process by which smokers are committing to quitting and supporting each other in these efforts," said Judith J Prochaska from Stanford University.
"Our findings provide evidence to help re-establish clinical recommendations on the utility of support networks for aiding cessation," said Prochaska. The findings were published in the journal Tobacco Control.