Pharmacists Can Educate Patients About Smoking Cessation Technology Options

Pharmacy TimesNovember 2023
Volume 89
Issue 11

Free apps can help patients track cravings, monitor triggers, and stay motivated

Tobacco use leads to more than 8 million deaths globally each year and approximately 1.3 million of these deaths are nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke.1 Only 30% of tobacco users have tools at their disposal to help them quit smoking successfully.1 The World Health Organization developed the tobacco cessation consortium, one of whose main goals is to incorporate technology resources globally for smoking cessation.2 Pharmacists play an important role in smoking cessation education by incorporating technology into medication therapy management (MTM) consults (see Figure).

man holding smoking a cigarette in hand. Cigarette smoke spread. dark background - Image credit: Methaphum |

Image credit: Methaphum |


According to a report from the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey, over 12 million US adult smokers search the internet annually for smoking cessation information.3 The survey asks US adults about their internet use over the past year3 and demonstrates the important role technology can play in the decision making process for patients.

Telehealth expands access to smoking cessation services. For example, live videoconferencing is a popular virtual face-to-face method for pharmacists to provide smoking cessation education.4 Medicare and Medicaid typically reimburse for these services and pharmacists can discuss pharmacotherapy options for smoking cessation during MTM consults, such as OTC nicotine replacement therapies (eg, gum, patch, lozenges).4 Telehealth provides a convenient option for individuals unable to travel because of transportation or health issues.

There are free apps available to help patients quit smoking. QuitGuide and quitSTART are examples of smartphone apps available through,6 Pharmacists can educate patients about the different app features.

QuitGuide includes the following features5:

  • Tracking of cravings
  • Mood and smoking trigger monitoring
  • Inspirational text messages
  • Identification of reasons for quitting smoking
  • Tips for coping with cravings and mood swings
  • Smoke-free milestone monitoring
  • Journal entry creation

The quitSTART app includes the following features6:

  • Receive tips and information to prepare to quit smoking
  • Monitor smoking cessation progress
  • Earn badges for smoke-free milestones and other achievements
  • Manage cravings and mood swings
  • Share progress and tips on social media

One study compared the usability and acceptability of the QuitGuide and quitSTART apps among young adult smokers with serious mental illness.7 Study participants completed questionnaires regarding demographics, tobacco use, technology use, and app feature preferences.7 The study data revealed that participants found the QuitGuide and quitSTART apps to be usable and appealing.7 However, individuals were more engaged with the quitSTART app.7

There is also a free National Texting Portal for smoking cessation support for US adults 18 years and older.8 However, patients should check with their mobile service provider about any fees from message and data rates. The services provide evidence-based support, tips, and advice for quitting smoking.8 has developed a variety of free text messaging programs that provide 24/7 services.9 Pharmacists can play an important role in educating patients about these programs as part of smoking cessation MTM consults (Table)


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPH, PACS, is a drug information pharmacist and Pharmacy Times contributor who resides in South Florida.


  1. Tobacco. World Health Organization. July 31, 2023. Accessed September 13, 2023.
  2. WHO director-general approves tobacco cessation consortium. News release. World Health Organization. November 5, 2021. Accessed September 13, 2023.,cessation%20support%20available%20to%20all
  3. Graham AL, Amato MS. Twelve million smokers look online for smoking cessation help annually: health information national trends survey data, 2005-2017. Nicotine Tob Res. 2019;21(2):249-252. doi:10.1093/ntr/nty043
  4. Telehealth as a vehicle to support tobacco cessation. American Lung Association. February 7, 2023. Accessed September 13, 2023.
  5. QuitGuide. National Institutes of Health. Accessed September 12, 2023.
  6. QuitSTART app. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed January 25, 2023. Accessed September 12, 2023.
  7. Gowarty MA, Aschbrenner KA, Brunette MF. Acceptability and usability of mobile apps for smoking cessation among young adults with psychotic disorders and other serious mental illness. Front Psychiatry. 2021;12:656538. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2021.656538
  8. National texting portal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed January 23, 2023. Accessed September 12, 2023.
  9. Smokefree text messaging programs. Accessed September 13, 2023.
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