Newly Developed AI Phone App Could Help Users to Quit Smoking

According to a study performed at the University of East Anglia, a stop-smoking mobile app has the potential to sense where and when users may be triggered to light up. This app can assist people in quitting smoking.

Image Credit: University of East Anglia.

Quit Sense is known to be the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) to serve as a stop-smoking app that has the potential to detect when people are entering a location that they utilized to smoke in. It also offers assistance to help control people’s particular smoking triggers in that location.

Financial support for the Quit Sense app has come from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council.

A study shows how the new app aided more smokers to quit compared to people who were just offered online NHS support.

The research group believes that by assisting people in managing trigger situations, the new app will aid more smokers in quitting.

We know that quit attempts often fail because urges to smoke are 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 medication, there are no existing ways of providing support to help smokers manage these types of situations and urges as they happen.

Felix Naughton, Study Lead Researcher, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr. Chloë Siegele-Brown, from the University of Cambridge and who designed the app, stated, “Quit Sense is an AI smartphone app that learns about the times, locations, and triggers of previous smoking events to decide when and what messages to display to the users to help them manage urges to smoke in real time.”

Helping people attempting to quit smoking to learn about and manage these situations is a new way of increasing a smoker’s chances of quitting successfully.

Felix Naughton, Study Lead Researcher, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia

The study performed a randomized controlled trial including 209 smokers recruited through social media.

The links were sent to the smokers by text message to access their allocated treatment—all participants received a link to NHS online stop-smoking assistance. Only half received the Quit Sense app.

Half a year later, the participants were asked to track the measures happening online, and those reporting to have quit smoking were asked to post back a saliva sample to confirm their abstinence.

We found that when smokers were offered the Quit Sense app, three-quarters installed it and those who started a quit attempt with the app used it for around one month on average. We also found that four times more people who were offered the app quit smoking six months later compared to those only offered online NHS support.

Felix Naughton, Study Lead Researcher, School of Health Sciences, University of East Anglia

The research group observed that one limitation of this comparatively small-scale study was that less than half of the people who reported quitting smoking returned a saliva sample to confirm that they had quit smoking. Also, more studies are required to better estimate the app’s effectiveness.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien stated, “Technology and smartphones have a role to play in driving down smoking rates, which is why I’ve set out our plans to explore the use of QR codes in cigarette pack inserts to take people to stop-smoking support.”

Making better use of technology - alongside the world’s first national ‘swap to stop’ scheme and financial incentives for pregnant women alongside behavioral support - will help us to meet our smoke-free ambition by 2030, reduce the number of smoking-illnesses needing to be treated, and cut NHS waiting times.”

The University of East Anglia headed this study in partnership with scientists from the Norwich Clinical Trials Unit, the University of Cambridge, the University of Nottingham, King’s College London, University College London, and Imperial College London.

Journal Reference:

Naughton, F., et al. (2023) An Automated, Online Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial of a Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention for Smoking Cessation (Quit Sense). Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

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