In the 1960s in the US, almost half of all Americans smoked cigarettes, and the annual per capita consumption rate was over 4000 cigarettes. Both of these numbers have almost halved in the in past 50 years, however it is estimated that as many as 48 million Americans are still regular users of combustible tobacco. There have been numerous products throughout the years that have been introduced to help smokers conquer the powerful addiction to nicotine, including patches that provide nicotine directly into the bloodstream and gum that helps fight cravings.
In recent years, people have begun to use technology as an aid as well. E-cigarettes, battery operated nicotine vaporizers, are becoming a very popular alternative to cigarettes, since they eliminate many of the carcinogens found in cigarettes, and though these are not considered cessation aids per se, many ex-smokers are finding them to be effective tools. Believe it or not, many software developers are also now making applications for smart phones to help people quit, which raises the question: how effective are these products?
Many Options Available
Smartphone usage is constantly increasing in the US, and there seems to be no reason, given the multitude of capabilities of these devices, to doubt that this will only continue in the coming years. Given the recent trends, it seems very likely that the percentage of mobile phone users who own a smartphone will eclipse the 50% mark next year, and as of last estimate over 37% of the population of the US were smartphone users.
Smartphones have become far more than merely communication tools; they are certainly that, but for many users they are also lifestyle tools. A wide variety of apps are available that provide dieting help, fitness advice, yoga instruction, tracking for jogging accomplishments, and a broad assortment of other health-related help. It is really no surprise, then, that a large number of apps have been developed to help smartphone users quit smoking.
According to a study by the National Institute of Health, there are as many as 47 different apps available for the iPhone classified as smoking cessation products, and a similar number is available for Android devices. The apps take a variety of different approaches to the problem, and some of these tactics are very creative. The various strategies include old-fashioned scare tactics (such as pictures of smokers’ lungs and reminders of mortality statistics), more fitness-oriented mechanisms (like tracking days since quitting and number of cravings resisted) and some more novel ideas, such as the app that ages a person’s face to show what they will look like if current smoking habits continue.
Some of them are more socially-oriented and can connect users to a community of people also attempting to quit. So there are many different ways to address this issue via smartphone technology, but how effective are these strategies?
Success of Smartphone Cessation Apps
The U.S. Public Health service issued in 2008 a set Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence according to their data on what were the most effective ways to address nicotine addiction. The National Institute of Health study in 2009 found that few, if any, of the apps issued by software companies had much adherence to these guidelines. According to these guidelines, a support network for those attempting to quit is absolutely crucial to the process, and very few of the apps capitalized on the connectivity of the smartphone to connect users to such a network.
More recent additions to the field have utilized this capability more thoroughly, and so perhaps will have greater success, but it is unlikely that any app that provides only the same tried-and-true tactics that have been used for years in schools and on public advertising campaigns with only moderate effect will have much more success in accomplishing the desired end.
Cessation apps are still a relatively new technique, however, so undoubtedly they will continue to build steam and build upon one anothers’ successes, so it can be expected that over time they will gradually become more and more useful tools for those looking to quit.