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There’s an App for That! Quit Smoking

March 2016

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

It turns out there are actually over 400 mobile apps purportedly designed to assist in smoking cessation. It is probably not surprising that most of these do not follow any proven principles of smoking cessation, and with few exceptions, were developed without input of a smoking cessation expert. A number of them are apparently helpful based on reviews by non-health care workers.

The app with arguably the best credentials is SmartQuit, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. It was developed at the University of Washington using principles created in a web-based environment. These are based on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) paradigm. It was studied against another app, QuitGuide from National Cancer Institute (also available for both iOS and Android). The apps were studied in 196 participants over eight weeks. The SmartQuit app outperformed QuitGuide although the difference was not statistically significant. Participants used the SmartQuit app significantly more frequently during their normal activities. The authors note that the study has significant limitations, but at least the two apps are based on solid cessation theory. Both apps are free.

A study performed by researchers at George Washington University concluded that “iPhone apps for smoking cessation rarely adhere to established guidelines for smoking cessation. It is recommended that current apps be revised and future apps be developed around evidence-based practices for smoking cessation”.

A study published in 2014 looking at use of smoking cessation apps in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia found that a smartphone app was able to reach smokers across three countries who were not seeking professional help, but were ready to quit within the next 30 days. Respondents were relatively young and almost demographically similar across all three countries. They also frequently used other health-related apps, mostly without checking the credibility of their publishers.

A number of other apps have received good reviews in non-health publications, several of which purport to have been written by medical smoking cessation experts. Included in this list are Craving to Quit (Yale University) and LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach (reportedly doctor-approved). The latter application is iOS only, though both are free.

Another well-reviewed app, SmokeFree, claims to be based on over 20 different, evidence-based, techniques to help smokers become—and stay—smoke free. The author is actually collecting efficacy data using the app and smokers can decide to be included or excluded from the data gathering process. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android.

Several apps seem to be games more than serious medical software. Whether games are of interest or not, the good news is, there are a number of reasonable options available to help patients quit smoking. I am hopeful more will come along.

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Editor’s note: The ATS does not endorse any of the programs or products mentioned in this column.

Last Reviewed: September 2017