Using Intensive Longitudinal Data Collected via Mobile Phone to Detect Imminent Lapse in Smokers Undergoing a Scheduled Quit Attempt

J Med Internet Res. 2016 Oct 17;18(10):e275. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6307.


Background: Mobile phone‒based real-time ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) have been used to record health risk behaviors, and antecedents to those behaviors, as they occur in near real time.

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine if intensive longitudinal data, collected via mobile phone, could be used to identify imminent risk for smoking lapse among socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers seeking smoking cessation treatment.

Methods: Participants were recruited into a randomized controlled smoking cessation trial at an urban safety-net hospital tobacco cessation clinic. All participants completed in-person EMAs on mobile phones provided by the study. The presence of six commonly cited lapse risk variables (ie, urge to smoke, stress, recent alcohol consumption, interaction with someone smoking, cessation motivation, and cigarette availability) collected during 2152 prompted or self-initiated postcessation EMAs was examined to determine whether the number of lapse risk factors was greater when lapse was imminent (ie, within 4 hours) than when lapse was not imminent. Various strategies were used to weight variables in efforts to improve the predictive utility of the lapse risk estimator.

Results: Participants (N=92) were mostly female (52/92, 57%), minority (65/92, 71%), 51.9 (SD 7.4) years old, and smoked 18.0 (SD 8.5) cigarettes per day. EMA data indicated significantly higher urges (P=.01), stress (P=.002), alcohol consumption (P<.001), interaction with someone smoking (P<.001), and lower cessation motivation (P=.03) within 4 hours of the first lapse compared with EMAs collected when lapse was not imminent. Further, the total number of lapse risk factors present within 4 hours of lapse (mean 2.43, SD 1.37) was significantly higher than the number of lapse risk factors present during periods when lapse was not imminent (mean 1.35, SD 1.04), P<.001. Overall, 62% (32/52) of all participants who lapsed completed at least one EMA wherein they reported ≥3 lapse risk factors within 4 hours of their first lapse. Differentially weighting lapse risk variables resulted in an improved risk estimator (weighted area=0.76 vs unweighted area=0.72, P<.004). Specifically, 80% (42/52) of all participants who lapsed had at least one EMA with a lapse risk score above the cut-off within 4 hours of their first lapse.

Conclusions: Real-time estimation of smoking lapse risk is feasible and may pave the way for development of mobile phone‒based smoking cessation treatments that automatically tailor treatment content in real time based on presence of specific lapse triggers. Interventions that identify risk for lapse and automatically deliver tailored messages or other treatment components in real time could offer effective, low cost, and highly disseminable treatments to individuals who do not have access to other more standard cessation treatments.

Keywords: ecological momentary assessment; mhealth; mobile app; smartphone; smoking cessation; socioeconomic disadvantage, risk estimation.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / therapy*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Texas