A new study, published in the June 3 issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that using social media to help young adults quit smoking is more effective than the traditional helplines.
Researchers at Canada's University of Waterloo compared the success rate of a social media-based campaign to a telephone-based hotline. Both campaigns ran for three months. The analysis showed 32 percent of those who used the "Break It Off" online campaign decided to quit smoking, which is twice the rate of those that used the "Smoker's Helpline" campaign, which was only 14 percent.
"These finding[s] suggest that the creators of public health campaigns need to evaluate how they use social media channels and social networks to improve health, especially with regards to younger demographics," said Bruce Baskerville, study leader and a senior scientist at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at Waterloo, in a university news release.
The researchers believe that social media has become an effective approach to reach out to young adults since almost 91 percent of them are active on Facebook and 35 percent are active on Twitter. Another reason is that not everyone is comfortable discussing their smoking problem with another person, so reading about it online is considered a better option.
"Traditional cessation services can have limited reach and this reduced visibility lessens their impact in a digital era," said Baskerville. "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."
According to the CDC, nearly 19 percent of young adults between 18 and 24 years old are smokers. The U.S. government has launched different initiatives to help smokers quit the habit using different platforms—there is the traditional helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW), several social media and online apps and a teen texting program.