Participants were also encouraged to access smokefree.gov, the National Cancer Institute's quit-smoking website.
Automated emails sent module links as follows: day 1: Prepare to Quit, Quit date 4 days: Quitting, day 8: help line/live chat, Quit date 13 days: Staying Quit, and day 22: help line/live chat. Unique to the intervention condition was enrolment in a Tweet2Quit 20-person, 100-day, virtual peer support group.
The groups were closed in that each member followed and was followed exclusively by other members, and no new members were added.
The groups were private, because only the group members and the study staff could see the tweets.
Our university IRBs approved the research and participants consented online.
In our Tweet2Quit pilot study, we found that daily Facebook use was significantly correlated with engagement in Tweet2Quit, while prior Twitter use was uncorrelated.32 Hence, for this clinical trial, we required daily Facebook use, not Twitter use.
The age range was 18–59 years to be as inclusive as possible, while excluding two age groups that were likely to have different lifestyles and cessation motivations: minors for whom cigarette use is illegal and retired older adults.
Exclusion criteria were: health contraindications to nicotine patch use; actively taking medication for depression, anxiety or quitting smoking; illicit hard drug use in the past 4 weeks; daily marijuana use; residence with another participant; failure to provide contact or collateral information; and/or failure to respond to a confirmatory text sent to their mobile phone.
Tweet2Quit sends twice-daily automated communications (‘autocommunications’) to encourage frequent and concurrent check-in, forms small intimate groups that start immediately and are closed to new members, and is purposefully of limited duration.
Additionally, Tweet2Quit participants were enrolled in 20-person, 100-day Twitter groups, and received daily discussion topics via Twitter, and daily engagement feedback via text.
Results Participants (mean age 35.7 years, 26.3% male, 31.2% college degree, 88.7% Caucasian) averaged 18.0 (SD=8.2) cigarettes per day and 16.8 (SD=9.8) years of smoking.
Once a cohort was formed, we gave all participants study website accounts using usernames and passwords provided at screening.
On the cohort's official start date, all participants were emailed instructions asking them to log into their study website account and set a quit date within 7 days of the start date.