A Text messaging-based smoking cessation program for adult smokers: Randomized controlled trial

Michele Ybarra, A. Tülay Bagci Bosi, Josephine Korchmaros, Salih Emri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: Despite promising data in Western countries, there is a dearth of research into the efficacy of text messaging-based smoking cessation programs in other settings, including the Middle East, where smoking prevalence rates are higher. Objective: This paper reports cessation rates observed in SMS Turkey, a text messaging-based smoking cessation program for adult smokers in Ankara, Turkey. Methods: This study was a small-scale, parallel-group randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted in Ankara, Turkey. Participants were adult daily smokers who were seriously thinking about quitting in the next 15 days and living in Ankara, Turkey. The text messaging intervention, SMS Turkey, provided 6 weeks of daily messages aimed at giving participants skills to help them quit smoking. Messages were sent in an automated fashion, except 2 days and 7 days after the initial quit day. On days 2 and 7, the research assistant manually assigned participants to content "paths" based on whether they were still not smoking or had relapsed. The control arm received a brochure that provided similar information about smoking cessation. The main outcome measure was self-reported 3-month sustained abstinence, verified by carbon monoxide (CO) readings. Neither participants nor researchers were blinded to arm assignment. Results: The 151 participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: 76 to the SMS Turkey intervention group and 75 to the brochure control group. Using intention to treat, all 151 participants were included in analyses. Three-month cessation trends were not significantly higher in the intervention group: 11% intervention vs 5% control had quit (χ2 1=1.4, P=.24; R2=2.0, 95% CI 0.62-6.3). When the sample was stratified by sex, female intervention participants (14%, n=5) were significantly more likely to have quit at 3 months than female control participants (0%, n=0; χ2 1=3.7, P=.05). Among light smokers (ie, those smoking less than 20 cigarettes per day), intervention participants (17%, n=5) also were significantly more likely to have quit compared to control participants (0%, n=0; χ2 1=5.3, P=.02). We noted no difference in cessation rates for males or heavy smokers. Participants experienced significant technology problems during the study. Some participants received duplicate text messages at least once during the trial; others failed to receive some program messages. Neither receiving duplicate messages (χ2 1=0.12, P=.73), or missing 5 or more program messages (χ2 1=0.75, P=.39) negatively affected quitting rates. Conclusions: Although the study was not powered to detect statistically significant differences, as the primary aim was to provide estimates of effect size that could be used to better inform a power analysis for a larger trial, findings provide optimism that SMS Turkey may be able to affect quitting rates in environments with high smoking prevalence, such as Ankara, Turkey. The SMS Turkey software program did not work as well as it did 2 years previous. The system will need to be updated to maintain software compatibility with ongoing technology evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere172
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012


  • Middle east
  • Pilot study
  • Smoking cessation
  • Text messaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'A Text messaging-based smoking cessation program for adult smokers: Randomized controlled trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this