How AI and mobile apps can help you quit smoking


Quit smoking mobile apps that detect where and when you might be triggered to smoke could help people quit – according to University of East Anglia research.

Quit smoking mobile apps that detect where and when you might be triggered to smoke could help people quit – according to University of East Anglia research.

Quit Sense is the world’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) quit smoking app that detects when people enter locations where they usually smoke. The app then provides support to help manage specific smoking triggers for people in those locations.

Funding for the Quit Sense app came from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council.

A study published today shows how the new app helps more smokers to quit than people who are only offered online NHS support.

The team hopes that by helping people manage triggering situations, the new app will help more smokers quit.

Lead researcher Prof Felix Naughton, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “We know that attempts to quit often fail because the urge to smoke is triggered by spending time in places where people used to smoke. This might be while at the pub or at work, for example.

“Other than using drugs, no other way exists to provide support to help smokers manage situations and urges like these when they occur.

Dr Chloë Siegele-Brown, University of Cambridge and creator of the app, said: “Quit Sense is an AI smartphone app that learns about the time, location and triggers of previous smoking events to decide when and what message to show the user. users to help them manage their urge to smoke in real time.

Prof Naughton added: “Helping people trying to quit smoking learn about and manage this situation is a new way to increase a smoker’s chances of quitting successfully.”

The research team conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 209 smokers recruited via social media.

They were sent a link via text message to access their allocated care – all participants received a link to online NHS smoking cessation support but only half received the Quit Sense app as an adjunct.

Six months later, participants were asked to complete follow-up online and those who reported having quit were asked to send back a saliva sample to verify their abstinence.

Prof Naughton said: “We found that when smokers were offered the Quit Sense app, three-quarters had it installed and those who initiated quit attempts with the app used it for about one month on average.

“We also found that four times as many people who were offered the app quit smoking six months later compared to those who offered only online NHS support.”

The research team noted that one limitation of this relatively small-scale study was that less than half of people who reported quitting returned a saliva sample to verify that they had quit. And more research is needed to provide a better estimate of the effectiveness of the application.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Technology and smartphones have a role to play in lowering smoking rates, which is why I have set out in our plans to explore the use of QR codes on cigarette pack inserts to encourage people to support quitting smoking.

“Better utilization of technology – together with the world’s first national ‘swap to stop’ scheme and financial incentives for pregnant women along with behavioral support – will help us fulfill our smoke-free ambition by 2030, reducing the number of smoking diseases that need to be treated, and cut NHS wait times.”

The study was led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with researchers from the University of Cambridge, Norwich Clinical Trials Unit, University of Nottingham, King’s College London, University College London and Imperial College London.

‘Online automated feasibility randomized controlled trial of the Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention for smoking cessation (Quit Sense)’ published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.



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