The 'Take a Break' game: Randomized trial protocol for a technology-assisted brief abstinence experience designed to engage lower-motivated smokers

Contemp Clin Trials. 2020 Jun:93:106002. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2020.106002. Epub 2020 Apr 23.


Background: While smoking continues to be the most preventable cause of mortality in the United States, most current smokers remain not ready to quit at any given time. Engaging these 'motivation phase' smokers with brief experiences to build confidence and practice skills related to cessation could lead to sooner and more successful quit attempts. Increasingly available mobile technology and gamification can be used to provide smokers with accessible and engaging support.

Methods: We describe our protocol for conducting a randomized controlled trial evaluating Take a Break, an mHealth-based smoking pre-cessation challenge designed for smokers not ready to quit. Participants in the intervention receive 1) Motivational Messages, 2) text message Challenge Quizzes, 3) Goal-setting with tobacco treatment specialist, 4) Coping Mini-Games apps, and 5) Recognition and Rewards for participation during a 3-week challenge. Access to coping mini-games and motivational messaging continues for 6-months. Both intervention and comparison group participants receive brief Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) sampling and daily smoking assessment text messages for three weeks. Primary outcomes include number of days abstinent during the challenge, change in patient-reported self-efficacy after the challenge, time to first quit attempt following the challenge, and 7-day point prevalent smoking cessation at six months.

Conclusion: Take a Break is an innovative approach to engage those not prepared for a quit attempt. Take a Break provides motivation phase smokers with tools and a brief experience to prepare them for a quit attempt, filling a gap in tobacco cessation support and current research.

Keywords: Cessation induction; Gamification; Tobacco cessation; mHealth.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Motivation*
  • Research Design
  • Reward
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Text Messaging*
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices