Young adults use social media to quit smoking

Social media's success rate for helping young adults quit smoking is twice that of traditional methods, according to a new study.

The study compared the results of social media-based campaign “Break It Off” against those of Smokers' Helpline, a phone hotline geared towards young adults.

Break It Off speaks to young adults by comparing the act of quitting smoking to breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, whereas Smokers' Hotline is less thematic.

After three months of using the apps and web tools offered by “Break It Off”, 32 percent of smokers had quit, whereas only 14 percent of Smokers' Helpline users had stopped at that point.

"These findings 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," says lead author Bruce Baskerville, a senior scientist at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at Waterloo.

The study took place in Canada, where the brunt of smokers are between 19 and 29 years old and unlikely to make use of traditional cessation services like Smokers' Helpline.

In addition to being the biggest demographic of smokers, they are also the biggest social media users in the country, according to the study.

Ninety-one percent use Facebook and one-third are active on sites like Twitter.

"Traditional cessation services can have limited reach and this reduced visibility lessens their impact in a digital era," says 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 programmes."

“Break It Off” is a creation of the Canadian Cancer Society and has been around since January 2012, and includes an interactive website in addition to social media and a free app.

The study was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 

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