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Development of a Videogame Prototype Targeting Cigarette Smoking Prevention among Young Adolescents

Funding Source

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Center for Technology and Behavioral Health Pilot Core

Project Period

January 2014 – December 2014

Principal Investigator

Lynn E. Fiellin, MD

Other Project Staff

Lindsay R. Duncan, PhD (Co-Investigator); Kimberly D. Hieftje, PhD (Co-Investigator); Deepa Camenga, M.D., M.H.S. (Co-Investigator); Ben Sawyer (Consultant); Mary Flanagan, PhD (Tiltfactor) (Consultants)

Project Summary

The goal of this project is to develop and test an electronic prototype of smokeSCREEN – a videogame intervention for preventing cigarette and marijuana smoking among adolescents aged 11 to 14 years. The game will be designed as a downloadable mobile app to be played on smartphones or tablets, which negatively impacts attitudes and intentions to smoke and positively affects behavioral skills related to smoking prevention.

Given that rates of adolescent cigarette and marijuana smoking increase dramatically during the transition from middle school to high school, schools have served as appropriate and effective settings for smoking prevention interventions. Schools, however, have come under increasing pressure from academic testing requirements, and severe budget cuts have reduced teaching staff and classroom hours, reducing the utility of schools as a vehicle for intervention delivery. The current project aims to incorporate proven smoking-prevention strategies into a new intervention delivery vehicle – videogames. A videogame is ideal for the delivery of a smoking prevention intervention because (a) videogames have been shown to be effective in affecting other health behaviors and (b) adolescents in the transition from middle school to high school interact regularly with and are engaged by videogames and mobile technology. The videogame prototype that is produced from this pilot project has the potential to ultimately have a meaningful public health impact by reducing rates of smoking initiation among young adolescents.