SEATTLE — Nov. 17, 2016 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center researchers have released a study indicating that a smartphone-based smoking-cessation app created at Fred Hutch, SmartQuit 2.0, can be two to three times as effective in helping cigarette smokers quit compared to unaided cessation methods. Today, as part of the Great American Smokeout, cancer prevention advocates and researchers across the country are working to raise awareness of the negative health effects of smoking and encourage smokers to utilize tools to help them quit. Nearly 40 million Americans smoke cigarettes, a behavior that is the single-largest preventable cause of disease in the world.
Dr. Jonathan Bricker, a psychologist and smoking-cessation researcher at Fred Hutch, led the single-arm trial that published its findings in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The study found that using SmartQuit 2.0 yielded an overall quit rate of 21 percent and a reduction in cigarette consumption at a rate of 75 percent. Of those participants who earned a certificate of completion with requirements listed in the program, these rates were even higher — 33 percent of smokers successfully quit and 88 percent saw a reduction in smoking. Traditional online smoking-cessation methods typically result in an 8 to 10 percent quit rate.
“We’ve found a successful tool that harnesses technology to extend our reach to people who might never have access to standard counseling,” Bricker said.
SmartQuit 2.0 employs a unique approach to smoking cessation by using acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, by focusing on increasing one’s willingness to accept the physical, mental and emotional challenges of quitting while also encouraging commitment to engage in values-based behavior change. The app was developed at Fred Hutch and supported through technical design and programming expertise by 2Morrow. For more about ACT, see Bricker’s TEDxRainier talk.
“Practicing acceptance can be a real eye-opener — a lot of people are relieved when they realize their urges are temporary and they don’t have to work so hard fight them,” Bricker says.
Bricker and his team also believe that increasing engagement with the app and ensuring users complete the entire program will be critical in increasing quit rates. For Washington residents trying to quit smoking, the Washington State Department of Health currently offers the SmartQuit app for free.
“Most people don’t think of cancer as a behavioral problem,” Bricker said, “but whether it’s by quitting smoking or losing weight or exercising more, there are some definitive things you can do to reduce your risk and thereby live a longer and higher-quality life.”
Bricker and study co-authors Wade Copeland, Kristin Mull, Emily Zeng, Noreen Watson, Katrina Akioka and Jaimee Heffner believe that future research could apply new elements, such as gaming elements, to the app to boost program completion rates. The study was supported through funding from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund and the National Cancer Institute.