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Are Quit Smoking Apps Effective? Read This!

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Tobacco is one of the biggest killers in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the use of tobacco kills around seven million people every year[1]. With such a high number of deaths and equally high number of morbidity issues, various approaches have been tried and tested to aid people quit smoking. And one such measure which is touted to aid in smoking cessation is ‘quit smoking apps’. Just like any other apps or applications, you can download these apps on your smartphone to aid in smoking cessation. However, there is not much awareness about these apps. And one big question that most people have is whether these quit smoking apps are effective or not.

So in this article, we shed light on quit smoking apps and how these work giving you a quick idea about these apps.

What Are Quit Smoking Apps?

Generally, smoking cessation support is provided in-person. It represents a public health approach to tobacco, but the scalability of in-person interventions is restricted. It is where mobile apps can play a role to help overcome this issue. There are many studies available these days which show the efficacy of text message based mobile health interventions for tobacco[2]. These texting based mobile health interventions have shown to improve user engagement with cessation programs by expanding communication through real-time and asynchronous messaging with support networks[2].

They also reduce the barriers to access such as schedule/timing conflict, location and cost. The functionality is restricted to simple communication through text messages. Some studies show that quit smoking apps offer more advantages over text-based programs. These advantages include customizable and interactive tools to support smokers through each stage of the quitting process[2]. They also include tools for daily reminders, progress tracking, and self-monitoring which can be availed by the user, on top of the social support[2].

The growth of smartphone usage and advent of mobile health interventions have made smoking cessation apps more accessible. Studies conducted on those who use smoking cessation apps have shown that these apps can reach those ready-to-quit smokers who are not actively seeking or receiving professional help[2]. Moreover, many apps are available free of charge. Thus, barriers such as cost, lack of transportation to treatment centers, and timing or schedule conflict are overcome. Furthermore, such mobile apps grant higher functionality when it comes to monitoring and social support.

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Quit Smoking Apps: How It Works?

Here are some of the general functions seen in common smoking cessation app. These include:

1. Tips For Dealing With Cravings And Bad Moods

Quit smoking apps can help you keep a tab on your cravings and provide you with remedies in the form of distractions for the same[3]. There are apps that remind you of the 4Ds related to smoking cravings[4] which are:

Delay: Setting a time limit before you smoke a cigarette and delay it for as long as you can[4]. It helps in overcoming the habit of smoking in the long run. If you feel you just can’t do it any longer move on to the next D.

Deep Breathing: These apps will remind you to breathe deeply. Whenever you are facing a craving to smoke a cigarette, it will remind you to relax and breath. By doing this one can eventually let go of the urge of smoking cigarettes[4]. If nothing seems to be working then move on to next D.

Drink Water: It is important to drink water and stay hydrated at all times during the day. This is another remedy that can keep you from smoking[4]. Apps remind you to drink more and more water thereby quelling your urge to smoke. If this doesn’t seem to work either, move on to the next D.

Do something else: The best way to get the craving out of your mind is by doing something else[4]. The apps will remind you of this so that you successfully overcome cravings. It is easier said than done for sure but with enough effort, anything is possible.

2. Track craving and slips by the time of the day and location

Another use of this app is that you can track your craving and slips without any hustle[3]. It will help you in analyzing when it is that you crave the most and how you can overcome this using an appropriate step. Also, it gives you the best possible tip or option to help you deal with your craving any time of the day.

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3. Track Your Mood and Smoking Triggers

These quit smoking apps can help you identify smoking triggers in your life and replace them with recovery triggers so that you do not slip back into the habit. It can also track your mood and hence, can help you to accordingly plan your day.

4. To Monitor Your Progress Toward Achieving ‘Smoke Free’ Milestones

These apps will help you monitor your progress toward achieving ‘smoke free’ milestones and reward yourself when you reach a milestone[3]. So tracking your progress becomes easy and knowing how well you fared at the end of each day can help you maintain or up your approach to quit smoking.

5. Create Journal Entries

The app will make you to create journal entries[3]. These can provide you with a tab on your cravings and slips. By creating journal entries, you can keep a note of where it was that you experienced slips and make sure in the future to avoid those triggers. Remember these simple things can make a big difference on the road to quitting.

6. Stay Motivated with Inspirational Messages

Most quit smoking apps do provide inspirational messages from time to time[3].These can not only keep you motivated to stop smoking but also provide you the much needed support. It might seem like a simple thing, but the effects are far-reaching. The next time you are about to slip and light one up, you may look at your phone to get inspired by a message which will change your mind. Such small things are beneficial in the quitting process.

7. Helps to Identify your Reasons for Quitting

These apps can help you to identify your reasons for quitting smoking[3]. It is as important an aspect of the process as giving you tips to control the urge to smoke. Once you have identified your reasons to quit you will have a strong base in which you can believe in. You can define your principles using this and use it to overcome urges whenever you feel like you are going to slip.

As there are different quit smoking apps, the functionality and features may differ slightly in what they provide to the user. But overall they are all trying to do the same thing, which is to get you to stop smoking! If you are trying any such app or are planning to try quit smoking apps, then let us know your experiences in the comments section. This can go a long way in helping like-minded people to quit smoking.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)

Recommended Reads:

Top 20 Smoking Myths Busted: No More Excuses To Quit Smoking!

9 Reasons Why you should be Quitting Smoking

References:

1. Tobacco [Internet]. World Health Organization. 2018 [cited 31 August 2018].

2. A systematic review of smartphone applications for smoking cessation [Internet]. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 2018 [cited 31 August 2018].

3. QuitGuide [Internet]. Smokefree.gov. 2018 [cited 31 August 2018]. 

4. A guide for tobacco users to quit.  The World Health Organization. [Internet]. Apps.who.int. 2018 [cited 31 August 2018].

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