Smartphone apps to help smokers quit come up short

Abroms and his colleagues analysed popular smoking cessation apps in February 2012.

Written by PTI | Washington | Published: November 17, 2013 6:36:40 pm

US researchers have found that most of the smartphone apps created to help smokers kick the butt may not give people the guidance they need.

The findings come even as many of the 11 million smokers in the US have downloaded smartphone apps to help them quit.

Since most of these apps don’t include practices proven to help smokers quit,they may not be getting the help they need,according to the study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Currently available,popular (most downloaded) smoking cessation apps have low levels of adherence to key evidence-based practices and few apps provide counseling on how to quit,recommend approved quit smoking medications or refer a user to a quit line,” said the study’s lead author Lorien C Abroms,assistant professor at the George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services.

“Still,there appears to be a high global demand for smoking cessation apps since over 700,000 apps are downloaded each month for the Android operating system alone,” he said.

Abroms and his colleagues analysed popular smoking cessation apps in February 2012.

Researchers studied the most popular apps – 47 for the iPhone and 51 for the Android operating system – and found that apps for both systems had a low adherence to the US Public Health Service’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.

“Even though the study found that popular smoking cessation apps have a low level of adherence to evidence-based guidelines,it is a hopeful sign that people want to quit and scientists and technicians are coming up with applications to help them,” said Michael C Fiore,professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Publi Healh.

“But the bad news is smartphone apps may not give people the guidance they need,” Fiore added.

Researchers acknowledged that while they know what helps people quit smoking generally,little is known about what aspects of smoking cessation programmes should be included in mobile apps.

Abroms noted that “they [smartphone apps do not promote aspects of treatments that have proven to work in quitting smoking and so we as public health professionals have reason to be concerned.”

“What we’re missing with smartphone apps is universally recognised,science-based recommendations,” said Fiore.

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