Smokers will be offered help to flick the habit with their texting thumb from tomorrow when a service starts for cellphone users.
Based on successful trials of the new concept, the service will be offered by the state-funded Quit Group, which also provides the telephone Quitline and cards for subsidised nicotine gum and patches. It is hoped to improve the chances of success for the 1-in-5 smokers who are trying to quit.
Just under 20 per cent of adults are smokers and the highest prevalence is among those aged 18 to 34.
Researchers realised the popularity of cellphones in New Zealand, especially among young adults, provided an opportunity to help reduce smoking. They saw it as "chewing gum for your fingers" - encouraging smokers to reach for their cellphone.
Auckland University's Clinical Trials Research Unit found that sending smokers regular, personalised text messages - containing quit-smoking advice, support or distraction - more than doubled their chances of them having stopped smoking when checked six weeks later.