Game plan: A new app to help smokers quit

19 Sep 2017

Although slowly becoming less common, smoking remains a major issue with around 96,000 people in the UK dying from diseases caused by smoking each year.

Now, thanks in part to our funding, the first smartphone game has been developed to help people quit.

'Cigbreak’ has been built with doctors, health psychologists and gaming experts and was led by Elizabeth Edwards and Robert Walton at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London and Hope Caton, founder of Healthy Games and lecturer at Kingston University.

Patients were involved from the beginning and in total 73 participants across the UK and USA have helped to develop the game.

Players must break cigarettes, encouraging them to ‘break the habit’, as they progress on a journey through a garden to a smoke-free finish line. The game acts as a distraction to smoking, and has hidden behaviour change techniques.

So far the feedback has been very positive, with 84% of patients in the focus groups wanting to play again. One of the patients in the focus groups added: “Having an app or game and having to do something with your hands does work because you will spend an hour on that game before you have realised it and that is an hour you have not smoked a cigarette.”

The app has been shortlisted for two awards - one for digital innovation at the Royal Society of Medicine and an NIHR ‘Let’s Get Digital’ award.

At present it’s been commissioned by five London boroughs, and Elizabeth Edwards – who is a GP as well as an NIHR In-practice fellow at Queen Mary - hopes that more will adopt it: “The app could have a large public health impact if the NHS were to commission it to everyone. It’s a valid and cost-effective way of delivering smoking cessation.”

The game is now available to download from the App Store for Android and iPhone.

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