Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States and worldwide.
Smoking rates have declined significantly among US adults over recent years, from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2016. However, there are still far too many people who are smoking cigarettes, putting themselves and others to risk.
The CDC estimated that nearly 38 million Americans smoked cigarettes in 2016, and that cigarette smoking causes nearly 500,000 deaths each year in the United States, which is more deaths than deaths caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidents combined.
Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of many serious diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
These diseases are the major causes of excess mortality among smokers which is about three times higher than that among similar people who never smoked.
Quitting smoking cuts the risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to one's life. However, quitting tobacco is a hard and long process full of obstacles.
Tobacco use is an addiction just like any other addiction, and it requires a lot of goodwill and motivation to stop. That's why people who want to quit smoking need every help possible, from their family to their primary care physicians.
There have been a lot of efforts on a national level that have included tobacco taxes and smoking bans which have both proven effective.
Many patients who are trying to quit tobacco use drugs for smoking cessation, which are in most cases age-restricted, and associated with cost burden.
This is one of the reasons why providers started prescribing mobile apps for smartphones and tablets that can help with smoking cessation to their patients, as a part of their therapy.
Moreover, health care providers are using mobile apps that can help them in their clinical practice, namely to help people who want to quit smoking with useful clinical advice.
Here at SteadyHealth, we already reviewed the QuitMedKit app from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, designed to assist healthcare providers in effective counseling and treatment of tobacco dependence among their patients, helping them quit smoking.
The app includes nearly everything the primary provider would want to have to aid patients in tobacco cessation: the 5A's approach, information on medications for cessation, tips on motivational interviewing, graphics to assist in cessation, and links to online resources.
While the QuitMedKit app includes a plethora of techniques and methods useful for clinicians, from the 5A's approach to information on medications for the cessation to tips on motivational interviewing, its information is not tailored to patients and their personal health and financial goals.
The SmokerStop app developed by Dr. Titus Brinker from Germany is aimed at patients who want to quit smoking. The app uses personal motivation as its primary smoking cessation technique, which is backed by science. The app, however, doesn't provide single link or reference to the science behind it.
The SmokerStop is a straightforward app. The patients are required to input some data, i.e. their own smoking habits (cigarettes per day, nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide in mg, as well as the price per pack).
The app uses this data to calculate health information such as the improvement in blood circulation and lung function, decreasing the risk of developing lung cancer or cardiovascular disease, as well as pre-set financial targets such as when an ex-smoker will have enough cash for monthly pass for the gym, short vacation, an iPhone, etc.
The app also allows patients to put in their own targets, e.g. goals they want to achieve, and track the progress.
The app users may be confused with some of the initial data entry, such as the amount of carbon monoxide, tar, and nicotine in their daily dose of cigarettes. However, after this, the app interface is quite intuitive and easy to follow.
There are four tabs displayed at the bottom of the screen, including Targets, Mentor, Body, and Ex-Smoker.
The 'Targets' tab shows financial goals with the percentage and time left to achieve it. The 'Body' tab provides health information and the benefits of quitting smoking displayed in a similar fashion as targets.
The 'Mentor' tab provides advantages and disadvantages of smoking in a form of short tips to help users stay smoke-free, as well as the amount of money saved hourly, monthly, and annually (users can tap on the amount to convert it to amount of cigarettes not being smoked, or to convert smoke-free hours and minutes into seconds).
The Smoker Stop app tracks all of this information to show the patients their progress and visualize the recovery of their bodies from tobacco.
Many people who are addicted to nicotine find it hard to stay motivated when they do decide to quit smoking. To help them with this, the Smoker Stop app allows users to set notifications and be alerted whenever they reach a new financial or health goal.
While being easy to use, the app is lacking instructions on how to use it. Also, there is no 'About' section containing more information about the app, its author or method used.
The app authors claim the method used is science-based, however, there's no single reference that would confirm that claim.
The SmokerStop app doesn't use any proven methodology, such as 5As, motivational interviewing, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It rather works as a simple motivational tool that utilizes financial- and health-based goals, which could be useful to complement smoking-cessation therapy.
Benefit: The app is designed for patients who want to quit smoking, their family members and primary care physicians, as well as any provider who counsels patients on tobacco cessation