What Do Smokers Want in A Smartphone-Based Cessation Application?

Publication Date: 
Oct 24, 2017

Background: Fueled by rapid technological advances over the past decade, there is growing interest in the use of smartphones to aid in smoking cessation. Hundreds of applications have been developed for this purpose, but little is known about how these applications are accessed and used by smokers or what features smokers believe would be most useful.

Purpose: The present study sought to understand the prevalence of smartphone ownership and patterns of use among smokers as well as the perceived utility of various smartphone application features for smoking cessation that are currently in development or already available.

Methods: Daily cigarette smokers (n = 224) reported on smartphone ownership, their patterns of smartphone usage, and perceived utility of features. Features were ranked according to perceived utility and differences in both perceived utility and general smartphone use patterns were examined as a function of demographic and smoking-related variables.

Results: Most smokers (80.4%) own a smartphone, but experience with smoking cessation applications is extremely rare (6.1%). Ownership and patterns of usage differed as a function of demographic and smoking-related variables. Overall, gain-framed features were rated as most useful, while loss-framed and interpersonal features were rated as least useful.

Conclusions: Mobile health interventions have the potential to reach a large number of smokers but are currently underutilized. Additional effort is needed to ensure parity in treatment access. Gain-framed messages may be especially useful for engaging smokers, even if other features ultimately drive treatment effects.

Implications: This study describes patterns of smartphone usage among smokers and identifies the smartphone application features smokers believe would be most useful during a quit attempt. Findings indicate which subgroups of smokers are most likely to be reached with mobile health interventions and suggests that inclusion of specific features may be helpful for engaging smokers in the smoking cessation process.

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