Last week, experts lit up an Israeli conference with new strategies to curb smoking using email, text messages and smartphone apps. Hebrew University’s School for Public Health, in cooperation with The Medical Society for Smoking Prevention and Cessation in Israel and the Hadassah Medical Organization, sponsored a forum focused on using modern communication to help smokers kick the habit.
At the conference George Washington University‘s Dr. Lorien Abroms delivered the keynote lecture, “Using Mobile Phones for Smoking Cessation”. Abroms researches the influence of modern communication technologies on human behavior: how emails, text messaging, and smartphone apps can alter unhealthy habits. She developed several quit-smoking programs, including an iPhone app and a smoking cessation kit for young adults. She created a text-messaging program for adult smokers, a service currently offered to callers in selected American states.
We live on our phones. They feed our demand for immediate information. We’re instantly reachable and can perform functions that only recently became common verbs: google the best restaurant, mapquest our way there, then facebook friends so we can meet up. It’s inevitable that this connectivity will be exploited for other uses.
We’ve seen social media be tapped to solicit wide-scale emergency fund-raising: consider relief money raised in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. Now political candidates and charities have jumped on mobile phone fundraising.
Phones convey environmental messages: Green Prophet’s reported on an SMS campaign that encourages water conservation in Jordan. Phones also promote fitness. My healthier friends use exercise applications on their phones to guide workouts and track calories consumed. Apps are constantly being developed to support other lifestyle choices. Like extinguishing smokes.
Conference topics included use of social networks to quit smoking and the impact of online information searches on smoker habits. Dr. Diane Levin-Zamir, director of the Department of Health Education and Promotion for Clalit Health Services, discussed the role of mass media in conveying health data and influencing behavior in her presentation “Media, Media Health Literacy and Smoking Among Adolescents”.
Other speakers included Dr. Hagai Levine of the School of Public Health, and Haim Pilosof, the smoking cessation call center manager at Maccabi Health Services, Israel’s second largest healthcare provider.
The Simple Message: Do or Die
Tobacco use is the most common preventable cause of death: half of all longterm smokers will die of smoking-related problems.
Quitting isn’t easy. Short-term effects such as weight gain, irritability and anxiety top the list of turn-offs for folks who try to stop. But for those who stay the course, soon after stubbing out the last butt, circulation begins to improve and blood pressure starts to return to normal. Sense of smell and taste return and breathing becomes easier. Your risk of getting cancer decreases with each year you stay smoke-free.
Now the tools to tackle quitting can be texted to you anywhere. Pick your own pocket: grab the pack of smokes or choose to check your phone. Green Prophet hopes you answer the call to quit.