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According to research conducted by the University of East Anglia, a groundbreaking mobile app that utilizes location and trigger sensing technology could assist individuals in quitting smoking. Known as Quit Sense, this app is the first of its kind to employ artificial intelligence (AI) to identify locations where users have previously smoked and provide targeted support to manage those specific triggers.

Quit Sense, the world's first AI-powered stop smoking app, has the remarkable ability to detect when users are entering a location where they used to smoke. Leveraging cutting-edge location sensing technology, the app then offers tailored support to help individuals effectively manage their specific smoking triggers in that particular location. By providing personalized assistance in real-time, Quit Sense aims to empower users in their journey to quit smoking and overcome environmental cues that may trigger cravings.

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

A recent study published today has demonstrated the effectiveness of the Quit Sense app in aiding smokers to quit compared to those who were only provided with online support from the National Health Service (NHS). The results revealed that the app significantly outperformed the online support alone in helping individuals quit smoking. The research team is optimistic that the app's ability to assist users in managing trigger situations will contribute to higher success rates in smoking cessation efforts. By addressing the unique triggers that may prompt individuals to smoke, the Quit Sense app has the potential to be a valuable tool in helping more smokers quit and achieve their goal of becoming smoke-free.

Professor Felix Naughton, the lead researcher from the University of East Anglia's School of Health Sciences, highlighted that quit attempts often falter due to triggers that prompt the urge to smoke, such as being in familiar locations where smoking was previously prevalent, such as pubs or workplaces. These triggers can derail progress in quitting smoking.

“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.

Dr. Chloë Siegele-Brown, who was involved in building the Quit Sense app and is affiliated with the University of Cambridge, explained that the app is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and operates as a smartphone application. It uses machine learning to gather information about the timing, locations, and triggers of past smoking events, and then utilizes this data to determine when and what messages to display to users in real-time to assist them in managing their urges to smoke. This personalized and adaptive approach allows the app to offer tailored support to users precisely when they need it the most.

Professor Naughton emphasized that the Quit Sense app's approach of helping individuals learn about and effectively manage trigger situations is a novel and promising method to improve the success rate of smoking cessation efforts. By providing real-time support and tailored strategies for dealing with triggers, the app aims to enhance a smoker's ability to quit successfully. This innovative approach could potentially contribute to improved outcomes in helping individuals overcome smoking addiction and achieve their goal of becoming smoke-free.

The research team carried out a randomised controlled trial involving 209 smokers who were recruited via social media.

During the study, participants were sent links via text message to access their designated treatment. All participants were provided with a link to the National Health Service (NHS) online stop smoking support, while only half of them also received access to the Quit Sense app as an additional intervention. After six months, participants were requested to complete follow-up measures online, and those who claimed to have quit smoking were asked to submit a saliva sample to verify their abstinence from smoking. This rigorous approach aimed to gather accurate data on the efficacy of the Quit Sense app in supporting smoking cessation efforts.

Professor Naughton shared that during the study, it was observed that 75% of the smokers offered the Quit Sense app installed it on their smartphones. Among those who initiated a quit attempt with the app, the average duration of usage was approximately one month. This indicates a substantial uptake of the app among the study participants, suggesting that the Quit Sense app is feasible and engaging for smokers who are attempting to quit. The findings highlight the potential of the app as a supportive tool in smoking cessation efforts.

The research team noted that while the study results were promising, there were some limitations to consider. One limitation was that less than half of the participants who claimed to have quit smoking returned a saliva sample to verify their abstinence, which could affect the accuracy of the findings. Additionally, the study was conducted on a relatively small scale. Therefore, further research is needed to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the app's effectiveness in supporting smoking cessation. Despite these limitations, the study results indicated that the Quit Sense app had a notable impact, with four times more people who were offered the app successfully quitting smoking compared to those who were only provided with online NHS support. This suggests the potential of the app as a valuable tool in helping smokers quit successfully.

Health Minister Neil O'Brien acknowledged the role of technology, including smartphones, in reducing smoking rates. He highlighted the government's plans to explore the use of QR codes in cigarette pack inserts to provide easy access to stop-smoking support. This reflects a recognition of the potential of innovative approaches, such as mobile apps like Quit Sense, to support individuals in their efforts to quit smoking and improve public health outcomes. Embracing technology as a tool for smoking cessation efforts aligns with the goal of reducing smoking rates and promoting healthier lifestyles.

The Health Minister emphasized the importance of leveraging technology as part of a comprehensive strategy to achieve the government's smokefree ambition by 2030. This strategy includes innovative initiatives such as the national 'swap to stop' scheme and financial incentives for pregnant women, along with behavioral support. By utilizing technology, such as mobile apps like Quit Sense, in conjunction with these initiatives, it is anticipated that smoking-related illnesses requiring medical treatment will decrease, leading to reduced pressure on the NHS and shorter waiting times for patients. This highlights the government's commitment to employing multifaceted approaches, including technological advancements, to promote smoking cessation, improve public health outcomes, and alleviate the burden on healthcare resources.

The study on the effectiveness of Quit Sense as an AI stop smoking app was conducted through a collaborative effort among various esteemed institutions. The University of East Anglia led the research, working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Norwich Clinical Trials Unit, the University of Nottingham, King's College London, University College London, and Imperial College London. This diverse team of experts brought together their collective knowledge and expertise to conduct a rigorous study and generate valuable findings on the potential of Quit Sense as a tool for smoking cessation. The collaboration among these renowned institutions underscores the significance of this research and the commitment to advancing the field of smoking cessation through interdisciplinary efforts.

‘An automated, online feasibility randomised controlled trial of a Just-In-Time Adaptive Intervention for smoking cessation (Quit Sense)’ is published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Journal Link: Nicotine & Tobacco Research