Smartphone health apps for tobacco Cessation: A systematic review

Addict Behav. 2021 Jan;112:106616. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106616. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Background: Given the low retention and lack of persistent support by traditional tobacco cessation programs, evidence-based smartphone app-supported interventions can be an important tobacco control component. The objective of this systematic review was to identify and evaluate the types of studies that use smartphone apps for interventions in tobacco cessation.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of PubMed (1946-2019), EMBASE (1974-2019), and PsycINFO (1806-2019) databases with keywords related to smartphone-supported tobacco cessation. Included articles were required to meet 3 baseline screening criteria: 1) be written in English, 2) include an abstract, and 3) be a full, peer-reviewed manuscript. The criteria for the second level of review were: 1) primary outcome of tobacco cessation, 2) intervention study, and 3) smartphone app as primary focus of study.

Results: Of 1973 eligible manuscripts, 18 met inclusion criteria. Most studies (n = 17) recruited adult participants (18 + years); one included teens (16 + years). Tobacco cessation was usually self-reported (n = 11), compared to biochemical verification (n = 3) or both (n = 4). There were 11 randomized controlled trials, 4 of which reported statistically significant results, and 7 single-arm trials that reported a mean abstinence rate of 33.9%.

Discussion: The majority of studies that use tobacco cessation apps as an intervention delivery modality are mostly at the pilot/feasibility stage. The growing field has resulted in studies that varied in methodologies, study design, and inclusion criteria. More consistency in intervention components and larger randomized controlled trials are needed for tobacco cessation smartphone apps.

Keywords: Apps; Cessation; Smartphone; Smoking; Systematic literature review; Tobacco.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Self Report
  • Smartphone
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Tobacco Use Cessation*