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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 10:42 GMT
Text service to help smokers quit
Text message
Text messages may reach those reluctant to seek personal help
Smokers will be able to receive help and support to quit the habit via text messages and emails.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint announced an expansion of NHS Stop Smoking Services on Tuesday.

The aim is to provide support to people who do not want a face-to-face consultation, and prefer to keep their efforts to quit discreet.

It is also hoped to help people who live in remote areas, shift workers or people with special needs.

By providing this type of innovative solution we hope to get more people to give up smoking
Caroline Flint

Smokers who call the NHS Smoking Helpline will be offered the 'Together' programme as an alternative to the more traditional services.

After registering a date by which they intend to quit, they will receive a series of supportive direct mail packs, text messages and call backs as they reach the key stages of the giving up process.

The programme can be tailored according to the needs of the individual so they can choose what communication they would like to receive - and change their quit date if needed.

Those who stop trying to quit, or who start smoking again will be encouraged to persevere and to set a new quit date.

Modern needs

Ms Flint said: "We have already had a huge amount of success through the NHS Stop Smoking Services.

"In the past year, almost 300,000 people have given up using the one-to-one or group counselling that is available to them.

"However, it is clear that not everybody will be suited to this type of help and some would prefer to receive support in their home environment which fits around their busy lives.

"By providing this type of innovative solution we hope to get more people to give up smoking and reduce their likelihood of developing smoking related diseases."

The initiative has already proved successful during its pilot of 30,000 users.

Evaluation of the programme indicated that nearly a third of this group had given up after six months, compared to only 5% of those going 'cold turkey'.

Users gave it an 85% approval rating.

Alexia Patterson, NHS Smoking Helpline adviser said: "Research shows that smokers are much more likely to give up smoking for good with the help of ongoing support, rather than relying on willpower alone.

"This new service gives those people who are less willing to opt for face-to-face help a real alternative."

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