Text Services to Help Teens Quit Smoking
Research shows casual smoking rates are on the rise among U.S. teens Reuters

Teens struggling with smoking addictions have a new gizmo guide to help them get rid of that addiction.

Smokefree has launched its first text-only support program, which delivers a series of automated text messages directly to the smoker's mobile phone over a period of up to 12 weeks, designed to help them kick the butt.

"Quit programs are often designed for adults, and teens are not little adults - they think and talk differently, and have different smoking patterns," says teen smoking expert Dr. Yvonne Hunt of the National Institutes of Health.

Teenagers usually spend a lot of time on their cell phones. That opens up a new window of opportunity to reach out to these kids who are attempting to quit. Every day, in the U.S alone, about 3,000 kids under the age of 18 start smoking; that accounts for an estimated 4.5 million adolescent smokers in the country.

Popular misconceptions like smoking helps lose weight encourages more teenagers to start smoking; others often see it as a coolness quotient.

However, studies show teenage smokers actually weigh more and have more body fat than non-smokers. They get sick more often and have smaller lungs and weaker hearts than their non-smoking peers. What is more worrying is that the habit usually grows; what starts out as 5-10 cigarettes a day usually becomes a pack or two a day. Teens who smoke are also more likely to use alcohol and other drugs.

The program, designed by the National Cancer Institute in association with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, assessed the results from a UK-based clinical trial that showed text supports can double the chances of quitting.

The study, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, examined the long-term effects of specially-designed text messages by testing the levels of cotinine (a chemical found in tobacco) found in participants' saliva after they reported they had stopped smoking for six months.

The study found text services significantly improved self-reported smoking cessation rates.

A series of texts comprising motivational messages and behavioral-change support unrelated to quitting were sent to a section of the 6,000 participants.