Smokers who tweet together, quit together, according to a new study by researchers at UC Irvine and Stanford.
When smokers in cessation programs tweet each other regularly, they're more successful at kicking the habit, according to the study headed by Cornelia Pechmann, professor of marketing at UCI's Paul Merage School of Business, and Judith J. Prochaska, associate professor of medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
The pair found that daily "automessages" that encourage and direct the social media exchanges may be more effective than traditional social media interventions for quitting smoking. The findings were published recently in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
"Our results indicate that incorporating social media-delivered automessages from trained counselors was effective in promoting smoking cessation," Pechmann says in a university statement. "The twice-daily messages encouraged people to tweet their group members, which made them more accountable for quitting."
To determine this, researchers followed two Tweet2Quit groups composed of 20 people each who communicated online via Twitter for 100 days. Participants each received a free supply of nicotine patches, along with daily automated text messages. They were encouraged to use a web-based guide to develop a cessation plan and were asked to tweet their group at least once a day about their progress.
There were no expert facilitators in the groups, only the smokers supported one another. The study found high participation among Tweet2Quit group members, with 78 percent tweeting their fellow members at least once during the 100-day study. The average number of tweets per person was 72, and 60 percent tweeted past the 30-day mark.
The first group studied had a smoking cessation rate of 42 percent and, after tweaking the automessaging process, the second group had a success rate of 75 percent, according to UCI.
"The Twitter environment created a sort of party dynamic," Pechmann explained. "That's especially important for social smokers. In addition, group leaders naturally emerged, facilitating the online conversations. These leaders played a critical role in keeping people engaged."
She and her team are currently working on a follow-up study involving Latino smokers. Learn more about Tweet2Quit at tweet2quit.merage.uci.edu.