Making quitting a game increases abstinence among smokers who are not yet ready to quit

Rajani S. Sadasivam, PhD

How can smokers who are not yet ready to quit be motivated to do so? According to a study co-authored by researchers at UMass Chan Medical School, smokers participating in a randomized clinical trial were almost twice as likely to quit after participating in a technology-assisted abstinence game, compared to those who had only received nicotine replacement lozenges to manage cravings. The study was published in JAMA internal medicine.

Participants who received the abstinence game intervention made their first attempt to quit earlier than the comparison group. And at the six-month follow-up, 18% of gambling intervention participants and 10% of comparison group participants achieved a smoking cessation verified by carbon monoxide level, indicating they had no smoked in the previous seven days.

Rajani S. Sadasivam, PhD, professor of demographic and quantitative health sciences and principal investigator, said the study aimed to make quitting smoking more enjoyable by presenting it as a game.

In 2020, 12.5% ​​of the population of the United States smoked cigarettes, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to a peak of about half the population in the 1950s. But the decline smoking and its effects on health have not affected everyone in the same way.

“Socio-economically disadvantaged groups still smoke heavily,” Dr Sadasivam said. “That’s what our group tried to figure out: how can we increase the reach of our interventions with these groups?”

A total of 433 smokers who were not ready to quit took part in the trial, which took place in four US health systems. Forty-eight percent of participants were male and 52 percent were female, with an average age of 54. The sample included participants from vulnerable socio-economic groups (eg, income issues, unemployment) and 75 percent had not completed their education.

Participants were randomly assigned to the Take a Break (TAB) intervention or the comparison group. All participants received nicotine replacement lozenges.

The TAB intervention was a three-week play experience. It included daily motivational text messages, challenge quizzes assessing smoking behavior, setting brief abstinence goals, choosing mobile health apps for craving management, and reward points for participation that determined the level of a gift card provided at the end of the study.

Participants in the comparison group received daily text messages rating the number of cigarettes smoked but did not receive the automated motivational responses to boost engagement and did not receive recognition points or participation rewards.

Sadasivam said smoking cessation interventions have traditionally been targeted at people who have indicated they want to quit. This study gives more options for people who are not yet ready to commit.

“There aren’t a lot of interventions out there, so it adds to that literature to try to help those people,” Sadasivam said. “This intervention can prepare them to quit, even if not immediately, in the long term. They understand the strategies they can use and they understand nicotine replacement therapy sampling and how to use it. »

Current articles related to UMass Chan:
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