Adaptation and assessment of a text messaging smoking cessation intervention in Vietnam: Pilot randomized controlled trial

Nan Jiang, Nam Nguyen, Nina Siman, Charles M. Cleland, Trang Nguyen, Hue Thi Doan, Lorien C. Abroms, Donna R. Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Text message (ie, short message service, SMS) smoking cessation interventions have demonstrated efficacy in high-income countries but are less well studied in low- and middle-income countries, including Vietnam. Objective: The goal of the research is to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a fully automated bidirectional SMS cessation intervention adapted for Vietnamese smokers. Methods: The study was conducted in 3 phases. In phase 1, we adapted the SMS library from US-based SMS cessation programs (ie, SmokefreeTXT and Text2Quit). The adaptation process consisted of 7 focus groups with 58 smokers to provide data on culturally relevant patterns of tobacco use and assess message preferences. In phase 2, we conducted a single-arm pilot test of the SMS intervention with 40 smokers followed by in-depth interviews with 10 participants to inform additional changes to the SMS library. In phase 3, we conducted a 2-arm pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 100 smokers. Participants received either the SMS program (intervention; n=50) or weekly text assessment on smoking status (control; n=50). The 6-week SMS program consisted of a 2-week prequit period and a 4-week postquit period. Participants received 2 to 4 automated messages per day. The main outcomes were engagement and acceptability which were assessed at 6 weeks (end of intervention). We assessed biochemically confirmed smoking abstinence at 6 weeks and 12 weeks. Postintervention in-depth interviews explored user experiences among a random sample of 16 participants in the intervention arm. Results: Participants in both arms reported high levels of engagement and acceptability. Participants reported using the program for an average of 36.4 (SD 3.4) days for the intervention arm and 36.0 (SD 3.9) days for the control arm. Four of the 50 participants in the intervention arm (8%) reset the quit date and 19 (38%) texted the keyword TIPS. The majority of participants in both arms reported that they always or usually read the text messages. Compared to the control arm, a higher proportion of participants in the intervention arm reported being satisfied with the program (98% [49/50] vs 82% [41/50]). Biochemically verified abstinence was higher in the intervention arm at 6 weeks (20% [10/50] vs 2% [1/50]; P=.01), but the effect was not significant at 12 weeks (12% [6/50] vs 6% [3/50]; P=.49). In-depth interviews conducted after the RCT suggested additional modifications to enhance the program including tailoring the timing of messages, adding more opportunities to interact with the program, and placing a greater emphasis on messages that described the harms of smoking. Conclusions: The study supported the feasibility and acceptability of an SMS program adapted for Vietnamese smokers. Future studies need to assess whether, with additional modifications, the program is associated with prolonged abstinence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27478
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Developing countries
  • Low- and middle-income country
  • MHealth
  • Mobile health
  • SMS
  • Smoking
  • Smoking cessation
  • Text messaging
  • Vietnam
  • Smokers
  • Humans
  • Vietnam/epidemiology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Text Messaging
  • Smoking Cessation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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