Don't quit Facebook if you want to quit smoking

Don't quit Facebook if you want to quit smoking

Social media is the most effective way to get people to quit smoking, according to Canadian researchers who compared the effectiveness of different public health campaigns.

A team from the University of Waterloo looked at the effectiveness of the social-media-based Break It Off campaign alongside a telephone hotline for young adults looking to quit called Smokers' Helpline.

After three months, 32% of smokers who used the Break It Off apps and web tools had dropped the habit, compared to just 14% who used the telephone-based support. The study was limited to 19-29 year olds, and the results adjusted for ethnicity, education level and cigarette use.

Breaking the habit

This age group has the highest rate of smoking in Canada, but rarely engage with traditional stop-smoking services like the telephone helpline in the study. 91% use Facebook, however, and one third actively use Twitter.

"Traditional cessation services can have limited reach and this reduced visibility lessens their impact in a digital era," said Bruce Baskerville, who led the study. "Because they are such heavy users of social media, these platforms provide an alternative and successful way of reaching smokers who are less likely to relate to other cessation programs."

The study was published in the journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Photo Credit: benmur via Compfight cc.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.