Social media could help people to quit smoking, a study by Nicotine and Tobacco Research has found. The study, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, focused on young adults between the ages of 19 to 29 and found that those who smoked heavily hardly did so when using popular social networking websites Facebook and Twitter.
The study focused on this age group as it has the highest smoking rates in Canada. However, research showed that despite this, the majority of people wishing to quit do not choose to use a telephone helpline but instead turn to social media for support.
Researchers made the discovery by comparing success rates for people using the social media-based campaign “Break It Off”, which was set up to help people quit smoking, with those of the telephone helpline, Smokers’ Helpline. They carried out the research for three months to see whether social media had a higher success rate for helping people to quit.
Results showed that 32 per cent of people quit smoking after using online apps, while only 14 per cent quit after receiving telephone support.
Bruce Baskerville, a senior scientist from the university, commented on the results, stating how “these findings suggest that the creators of public health campaigns need to evaluate how they use social media channels and social media networks to improve health, especially with regards to younger demographics.”
With results showing that social media is far more effective than the traditional method of using a helpline, health experts can now start using social media as a way of improving efforts to provide help for those who wish to quit smoking.
Baskerville stated that social media provides a “more successful way of reaching smokers” compared to traditional methods.
“Traditional cessation services can have limited reach and this reduced visibility lessens their impact in a digital era,” he said.
“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 programs.”
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