Game plan: A new app to help smokers quit

31 May 2018

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 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.”


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 adopt Cigbreak”. 

Hope Caton, inventor of the app, said: “People think games are frivolous but we learn a lot through play, the good thing about a smartphone gaming app is that you can play it anywhere. Craving is a short-term thing, so if you get a craving at 11am, you can play the game in the warm until it passes, rather than going out into the cold for a cigarette, you’ve also got something to do with your hands other than smoke. 

"When you’re trying to quit smoking you don’t get much instant feedback except desire. Your health is better but somehow it doesn’t have the same effect as being told you’re winning or getting a gold star."

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.

The game is now available to download from the App Store for iPhone. The team is currently running a pilot study to measure quit rates, so join and find out more at:


More news