A new app to help smokers quit

A new app to help smokers quit

A smartphone app that could help smokers stick to New Year's resolutions to quit has been developed.

Cigbreak Free works like a regular smartphone game, with players having to complete tasks to progress through levels and gain rewards. However, it also incorporates a combination of some 37 behavioral change techniques - theory-based methods for changing behavior - selected by health psychologists to help smokers quit.

In the game, players have to swipe a certain number of cigarettes to break them within a time limit. As well as progressing through levels, the app includes a quit journal where users can calculate how much money they are saving.

The app has now been commissioned for use by five London boroughs - Kingston, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Tower Hamlets and the City of Westminster - as part of their public health smoking cessation services.

Rewards in the game were a way of giving smokers instant positive feedback. This month - a key time for smokers to make the resolution to quit - the team will begin a three-month pilot study with app users to evaluate its effectiveness.

The team published the  research study in the British Medical Journal, which analysed the use of behavior change techniques and game-like elements in health apps currently on the market. They found that very few of the health apps they looked at were using games to help people make positive health changes.