Health officials are turning to cell telephones to encourage smokers to kick the habit.
Costa Rica is the first of some eight countries that are adopting a program supported by the International Telecommunications Union. The idea is to use text messaging to support those who are trying to quit.
Smoking is the first ill that will be considered, but health officials also are talking about sedentary lifestyles, alcohol and bad diet. They call these non-transmissible diseases.
Government officials say that a new law that cracked down on smokers provided the incentive to expand into the cell telephone market. There are more cell phones in the world than humans, noted one official.
The Ministerio de Salud plans to open an Oficina Nacional de Control de Tabaco at the end of the month that will monitor tobacco use. That, the Instituto sobre Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia and the Panamerican Health Organization will create messages to fortify the will of those who are trying to stop smoking, said the ministry.
The text messages will be planned to coincide with the stage of withdrawal of each smoker. The Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología y Telecomunicaciones also is involved in the project.
Various officials signed an agreement Tuesday that will put the plan into operation.
The World Health Organization is involved, too.
The anti-tobacco law went into force a year ago, and it is this law that prohibits most smoking in many private and public areas. The email program, known as m-Salud, will target smokers from 18 to 35, said the agencies.
Health officials have to put together the employees and the technical systems to execute the project, so they anticipate that the first test messages will be going to smokers who volunteer in August.