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Study: Daily emails on smoking danger encourages people to quit

Daily email messaging on the dangers of smoking can help push those who want to quit, a new study has found. Photo by SamWilliamsPhoto/Pixabay
Daily email messaging on the dangers of smoking can help push those who want to quit, a new study has found. Photo by SamWilliamsPhoto/Pixabay

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Smokers who see regular messages about the chemicals in tobacco and their related health risks, along with graphic images of the effects of smoking and information on quitting, are more likely to stop the habit, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open found.

Study participants who receive daily email messages about the dangers associated with tobacco use for 15 days had a higher desire to quit than those not sent the materials.

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The findings suggest that "impactful messaging" about the chemicals in tobacco products, "combined with potent images depicting those messages," helps push smokers to quit, researchers said.

"Smokers clearly found the new information about the toxicity of cigarette constituents combined with striking visuals informative, and these messages helped motivate many to want to quit," study co-author Dr. Adam Goldstein told UPI.

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"Most smokers already want to quit, but few are truly successful, in large part because of nicotine addiction," said Goldstein, a professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

About 70% of all adult smokers in the United States -- or roughly 22 million people -- want to quit the habit, according to figures from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Since 2010, the agency has required tobacco manufacturers and importers to report the levels of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals found in their products.

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The idea was to educate the public and ultimately to decrease tobacco use, though their efficacy at doing so remains unclear, Goldstein and his colleagues said.

Combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes contain potentially harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde, uranium and arsenic, which have been linked to serious health complications, including cancer.

For this study, which was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, the researchers assessed the impact of daily smoking-cessation emails on 789 adults smokers.

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The study tested three different types of messages about cigarettes and the chemicals they contain sent to participants for 15 consecutive days.

Smokers' intentions to quit were assessed on the 16th day and then again on the 32nd day following the messaging campaign.

The researchers also tracked the number of cigarettes a person smoked, as well as chose not to smoke or put out before it was finished because the person wanted to smoke less.

Although the overall effect was "mild," quit intentions were higher and cigarettes smoked decreased as the number of messages viewed increased, and "even a small impact could be meaningful on a population level," the researchers said.

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"We have to remember that cues for people to smoke happen dozens of times daily, including when we see advertisements in stores, adds on computers, watching TV and movies, and most importantly when smokers pull cigarettes from packs," said Goldstein, who is also director of the UNC Tobacco Intervention Programs.

"Leaders in public health research know that countering these messages requires innovative approaches that educate, show respect and help change what smokers would experience daily if not exposed to pro-health messaging," he said.

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