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Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction

MobileCoach Tobacco: Promoting smoking cessation among young people via SMS

Summary Optimisation and implementation of the MobileCoach Tobacco programme to promote smoking cessation among teenagers and young adults. 
Project manager(s) Severin Haug
Duration 11.2013-10.2016
Client / Funding partner(s) Tabakpräventionsfonds (TPF)
Cooperating partner(s) Fachstelle Suchtprävention des Mittelschul- und Berufsbildungsamts Zürich, Stiftung Berner Gesundheit (BeGes), Lungenliga beider Basel, Health-IS der Hochschule St. Gallen und der ETH Zürich


MobileCoach Tobacco is an SMS-based programme to promote smoking cessation among adolescents and young adults. The programme's acceptance and effectiveness was tested in a controlled study of 755 students at vocational schools in German-speaking Switzerland. Using data from an internet-based survey, the programme automatically generates SMS messages that are sent to the participants over a period of three months. The SMS messages take into account demographic data, individual smoking behaviour and smoking-specific attitudes based on the Health Action Process Approach. The fully automated intervention was very well implemented, specifically in school settings amongst adolescents and young adults. The programme achieved a high particpation rate of 75% of the smokers. 98% of smokers in the intervention group participated in the programme until the end. The programme proved to be effective in reducing cigarette consumption both among occasional and daily smokers. In the case of occasional smokers, the programme helped in promoting behavioural change and cessation attempts. 

Among students in vocational schools, 4 out of 5 smokers show problematic tobacco and alcohol consumption. Failed attempts to quit smoking are often associated with alcohol consumption. Recent studies suggest that combined interventions that address both smoking and alcohol consumption are promising for increasing the rate of smoking cessation. 


The programme is to be optimised while taking into account technological advances and scientific evidence on alcohol and tobacco interventions. Cantonal partner institutions at vocational schools will implement the programme. 


In addition to purely text-based messages, the optimized program contains video-based intervention elements and thus takes into account the new possibilites of smartphone technology. The programme will be implemented by cantonal partner institutions during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 school years with 1400 students who smoke daily or occasionally, in 300 school classes at about 30 vocational schools in Switzerland. Based on a cluster randomisation, half of the participants will recieve intervention content which, based on previous but further optimised programme, takes into acocunt not only demographics but also individual smoking behaivour (MobileCoach Tabak). The other half of the participants will recieve an extended version of the program (MobileCoach Tabak Plus), which contains addtional online feedback on individual alcohol consumption, additional SMS messages on the connection between smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as tips on how to deal with alcohol. Thus contributing to a more effective promotion of smoking cessation. Within a follow-up telepone survey after 6 monts, the use, acceptance and effectiveness of the programme variants will be recorded and the compared. 


For the first time within a controlled study, the effectiveness of an integrated, SMS-based intervention to promote smoking cessation is being tested. It also takes into account individual alcohol consumption and the link between the two behaviours. The programme promises to further increase the effectiveness of SMS programmes, which can be used cost-effectively and can be implemented longer term by cantonal partner institutions in school settings. 


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