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How digital tools can help tobacco users quit for good

Nicotine is a powerfully addictive chemical and, without support, tobacco users are not likely to quit successfully on their own. These are major reasons why annual quit success rates are roughly 7%.

Newer digital-based quit tools — from online social communities to text message-based programs — can help people overcome those odds. Quit tools are also increasingly vital as rising e-cigarette use among young people draws national concern about rates of nicotine use and addiction.

“Continued and persistent adult smoking, and rising vaping rates, underscore why it is more important than ever to keep our focus on advancing safe, innovative and effective ways to overcome nicotine addiction in all its forms,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative®, at the most recent installment of the Kenneth E. Warner Series, “Quitting for good: How digital cessation programs are making an impact in communities, workplaces and beyond.”

At the event, experts discussed the effectiveness of digital-based tools, including the EX® Program, a digital quit smoking program for employers, health plans and health clinics developed by Truth Initiative in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, as well as other programs from Truth Initiative: BecomeAnEX® and a first-of-its-kind quit vaping tool, This is Quitting.

Modernizing the approach to quitting

Quit smoking resources online

In 2017, more than one third of all smokers reported going online to look for help to quit, according to a Truth Initiative study.

“The internet has really occupied a central part of where we go to look for information. Google has become a verb over the past years,” said Dr. Amanda Graham, leader of the Innovations center at Truth Initiative. “In terms of reach, [digital quit programs] have a clear advantage.”

Low quit rates remain common in communities with lower income and education levels, in racial and ethnic minority groups, among those with mental health conditions and within the LGBT community. Digital programs can help decrease these disparities. Dr. David Price, director of mission integration at CHI Mercy Health, says underserved populations can benefit from the convenience and accessibility that a digital platform provides to engage in the quitting process.

Quitting and quitting for good

How to quit smoking for good

It can take multiple attempts to fully quit without a relapse, according to Jennifer Gendron, who oversees marketing for the EX Program.

An accessible online community can give smokers looking to quit a higher chance of quitting for good. In fact, studies have shown that BecomeAnEX quadruples a smoker’s chances for quitting. The EX Program is based on BecomeAnEX and expands it to provide an enterprise-level program for employers and health plans.

“We know it takes multiple attempts [to successfully quit],” said Gendron. “They’re at work for one third of their life, so what better place to give them the tools to be successful.” 

Research has also found that smokers who became more socially connected on BecomeAnEX were significantly less likely to be smoking three months after enrollment. BecomeAnEX and the EX Program have active social networks of thousands of smokers and ex-smokers. The EX Program delivers proven quit smoking treatment via interactive quitting tools and video, live chat, text message, email and quit medication. It also includes personalized, digital coaching and medication support from tobacco treatment specialists at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and Truth Initiative.

“To underline the importance of the social support and the uniqueness of the BecomeAnEX platform,” said Dr. Burke of the Mayo Health Clinic while on the topic of digital interventions, “the vibrant community that is available there to support people at all stages of their journey or when reentering the journey is extraordinarily helpful.” 

The Warner Series panel discussion is an ongoing event dedicated to bringing thought leaders from tobacco control, public health and youth service communities to engage in thought-provoking conversations about ways we can innovate and inspire action to save lives.

Learn more about quit smoking and vaping tools from Truth Initiative.