Smoking cessation app reaches smokers in multiple nations

A feasibility study across three countries--Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States--finds that smartphone-based smoking cessation apps are a promising medium to reach smokers, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research's mHealth and uHealth.

The aim of the study was to measure and compare the uptake of a smoking cessation app over a one-year period in the three countries. In addition, researchers assessed the feasibility of conducting research via an app, described respondents' characteristics and examined differences between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.

The cross-sectional exploratory study was comprised of adults 18 years and older who downloaded the app, named Quit Advisor. The total number of app downloads after one year was 1,751, the majority of downloads from Apple iOS users.

"There were no significant differences between countries in terms of age, operation system used, number of quitting attempts and language spoken at home," state the article's authors. "However, there were significant differences between countries in terms of gender and stage of change." 

Nearly 37 percent of participants completed a questionnaire within the app. Of these 602 participants, 58.8 percent were female and the mean age was 32 years. 77.2 percent of participants were ready to quit in the next 30 days and the majority had never sought professional help. More than half had downloaded smoking cessation apps in the past and of these, three-quarters had made quitting attempts using an app before. 

"Current smokers from the three countries, mostly ready to quit in the near future, but eschewing professional help, have downloaded smoking cessation apps in the past and tried using them to quit; however, the low quality of apps in the field undermines these efforts," states the article. "Thus, this study has shown that smartphone smoking cessation apps can reach smokers across multiple nations."

Respondents who had attempted to quit three times or more in the previous year were more likely to have tried smoking cessation apps, and 50.2 percent of the respondents that had used other health-related apps before. Of these, 89.4 percent were using health-related apps at least once a week, but 77.5 percent never checked the credibility of the health app publishers before downloading.

According to a November 2012 review of evidence from five studies, mobile phone-based interventions are an effective method for helping smokers quit. The interventions included in the review primarily used text messaging via mobile phones to provide motivational messages, support and tips for stopping smoking, resulting in people being more likely to stay away from cigarettes over a six-month period.

To learn more:
- read the article in JMIR

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