Quit Smoking Apps Lack Evidence-Based Approach

Published Online: Monday, April 18, 2011

The iTunes store is packed with apps that claim to help smokers kick the habit once and for all, but a new study shows that very few provide guidance that aligns with conventional medical wisdom on smoking cessation.

Reporting in the March 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers wrote that their survey of 47 iPhone apps revealed very little clinical value among these popular health tools. They based their evaluations on the US Public Health Service’s 2008 Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.

The most frequently downloaded apps were also the worst offenders in terms of adherence to the guidelines, a finding the researchers said was “disappointing, but not surprising.” Apps that had the most downloads were hypnosis apps, which played recordings of hypnotherapists talking, and calendar apps, which tracked the days since a patient’s last cigarette.

Overall, apps in the study rarely referred users to recommended treatment, pharmacotherapy, or counseling to help them quit. They also did not connect patients to resources outside the app, such as quitlines and clinics, or facilitate a social support network by connecting them to friends and family.

“These weaknesses should be recognized as both a missed opportunity to provide iPhone users with evidence-based smoking-cessation aids and as a setback for the promotion of evidencebased smoking-cessation methods,” the authors concluded.

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