05 Aug 2015
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Kiwi student investigates: Can an app help you quit smoking?

By Catherine Knowles

University of Waikato student Satvir Singh wants to find out how effective smartphone apps are when it comes to giving up smoking.

“I’m looking to investigate the effectiveness of an app - SmartQuit, which was the first app to use acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) principles to target smoking cessation,” says Singh.

“The underlying goal of ACT is to assist people to accept challenging experiences they’ve faced in the past and to act on their fundamental values.

"ACT differs from mainstream therapies in that the desired effect of treatment is an increase in psychological flexibility and not symptom reduction.

"My primary focus will be on the extent to which smoking rates, cravings and urges decline with the use of this programme,” she says.

There are many reasons to quit smoking, the most beneficial being a longer life. Despite these reasons though, it seems that the short-term gains of pleasure and relaxation outweigh the long-term health consequences, she says.

“While approximately 90% of smokers report wanting to quit smoking and regret taking it up in the first place, only 50% try to quit and a further 2.5% are successful every year.

“In spite of the risk factors, consumption of this substance remains at high levels. However the use of mobile phones to deliver smoking cessation leads to double the quit rate," says Singh.

Singh is studying towards a Master of Social Sciences, majoring in Psychology, within the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences under the supervision of doctors Rebecca Sargisson and Nicola Starkey.

She is seeking research participants that are 18 years of age and over, have access to a smart phone and smoke 10 or more cigarettes per day.

Participation will involve taking part in five phases, in which participants will be asked to record smoking, urges and cravings; complete brief questionnaires; and download SmartQuit (free of charge).

Two follow-up surveys will also be completed at the end of the study that will allow treatment and smoking outcomes to be measured.

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