Feature-level analysis of a novel smartphone application for smoking cessation

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2015 Jan;41(1):68-73. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2014.977486. Epub 2014 Nov 14.


Background: Currently, there are over 400 smoking cessation smartphone apps available, downloaded an estimated 780,000 times per month. No prior studies have examined how individuals engage with specific features of cessation apps and whether use of these features is associated with quitting.

Objectives: Using data from a pilot trial of a novel smoking cessation app, we examined: (i) the 10 most-used app features, and (ii) prospective associations between feature usage and quitting.

Methods: Participants (n = 76) were from the experimental arm of a randomized, controlled pilot trial of an app for smoking cessation called "SmartQuit," which includes elements of both Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Utilization data were automatically tracked during the 8-week treatment phase. Thirty-day point prevalence smoking abstinence was assessed at 60-day follow-up.

Results: The most-used features - quit plan, tracking, progress, and sharing - were mostly CBT. Only two of the 10 most-used features were prospectively associated with quitting: viewing the quit plan (p = 0.03) and tracking practice of letting urges pass (p = 0.03). Tracking ACT skill practice was used by fewer participants (n = 43) but was associated with cessation (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: In this exploratory analysis without control for multiple comparisons, viewing a quit plan (CBT) as well as tracking practice of letting urges pass (ACT) were both appealing to app users and associated with successful quitting. Aside from these features, there was little overlap between a feature's popularity and its prospective association with quitting. Tests of causal associations between feature usage and smoking cessation are now needed.

Keywords: ACT; app; mHealth; mobile phone; tobacco.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Patient Compliance
  • Smoking / therapy*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Telephone / statistics & numerical data*