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‘Quit smoking’ apps | How effective are they? – The Hindu

Summary

As governments and NGOs invest in quit smoking apps and de-addiction efforts, users share how effective they really are

As governments and NGOs invest in quit smoking apps and de-addiction efforts, users share how effective they really are

Rahul*, 29, began smoking ten years ago. Now, he is trying to quit the habit. He installed Smoke Free, an app available on the iOS app store, to help him with the de-addiction. He was disappoint…….

As governments and NGOs invest in quit smoking apps and de-addiction efforts, users share how effective they really are

As governments and NGOs invest in quit smoking apps and de-addiction efforts, users share how effective they really are

Rahul*, 29, began smoking ten years ago. Now, he is trying to quit the habit. He installed Smoke Free, an app available on the iOS app store, to help him with the de-addiction. He was disappointed with the results after using the app for two weeks. 

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Despite the app’s constant nudges and multiple notifications about smoke-free days, manually making users add the number of cigarettes smoked in a day is putting off, Rahul said. 

“I feel there needs to be better interfaces and greater integration of such apps with friends and family, something like the health apps on Android and iOS watches that rewards you and lets you see how a group is faring, rather than having an individual keeping tabs on their own smoking habits, which can be easily ignored.”

Pankaj*, 30 , another user of ‘quit smoking’ app shared his failed attempt to quit the eight-year-old habit. He installed QuitSure for free from the App Stores, and is disappointed with the outcome. Though the app gave prompts, it was not as useful as one would hope, he said. 

He stressed on the need to start educating people about the long- and short-term dangers of tobacco use. “Especially youngsters should be made aware of the serious effects of tobacco and the ease with which it can become a life-long dependency”, he added. 

A herculean problem 

The National Cancer Institute notes that there is no safe level of tobacco use, listing tobacco as one of the leading causes of cancer. The institute points out that quitting the habit early could bring substantial gains in life expectancy compared with those who continue to smoke. Nearly 29% of all adults in India consume tobacco in some form or the other, according to a ,2016-17 Global Adult Tobacco Survey. 

De-addiction drives in local communities to improve overall public health has been undertaken by WHO, State government agencies and NGOs. Some agencies have also launched smartphone apps to help people overcome smoking addiction. 

On May 31, World No Tobacco day, Ma Subramanian, Tamil Nadu Health Minister, launched an app to raise awareness around the issue. The application was designed by the Cancer Institute with an aim to increase the chances of people quitting the habit. 

This app, along with Smoke Free and QuitSure, joins the list of several other ‘quit smoking’ apps that uses technology to help users give up smoking. Their success with de-addiction is a moot point.

Different approaches, similar results 

While most apps are free to use, almost all of them offer paid programmes that claim to help users quit the habit in days if not weeks.  And, despite positive reviews, users we talked to said that not all of these apps are good enough. They also pointed out the different apps nudge users in different ways to achieve results.

For example, QuitSure provides users detailed manuals and even has support groups on social media platforms. The idea of openly sharing one’s struggle with addiction in an open forum may not be appealing to all. 

SmokeFree, on the other hand, lets people know how their health improves after quitting smoking. To do this, they pick information from the user who has to manually update when they smoked last. Some users, like Rahul say people tend to forget updating this information sometimes.

WHO’s QuitTobacco is comprehensive as it involves loved ones as part of the support group, and helps users identify triggers and ways to reduce dependency on tobacco products. 

A holistic approach

Rohit*, 29, said he tried chewing gums, nicotine patches and even medications to quit smoking. He now relies on apps to let go of his decade-old habit. 

“The [Kwit] app was able to help reinforce the idea that I wanted to quit and I did find the app helpful,” he said. “But it is not a sure shot method of kicking the habit. Something like an [Alcoholics Anonymous] AA group where you can share your struggle with people going through something similar as a community to quit would have been better.’‘ 

He also shared that human connection would be more useful than prompts from an app that can easily be ignored.  

People with nicotine use find it difficult to quit the habit as it needs a psychological withdrawal than a physical one, according to Psychiatrist Dr. Venkatesh Babu. 

“These applications may serve as psychoeducational tools towards preparing them for abstinence but it does require some clinician assistance to understand any comorbid conditions leading to harmful use,” said Dr Venkatesh Babu.