Gowarty MA, Kung NJ, Maher AE, Longacre MR, Brunette MF
Researchers examined perceptions of smartphone smoking cessation apps and app design preferences in young adult smokers with serious mental illness.
Researchers recruited young adult smokers with serious mental illness from a large community mental health center in New England to participate in a qualitative study of attitudes toward smoking cessation apps. Recruitment occurred through study flyers in waiting rooms and clinician referral. Researchers focused analysis on participants aged 25-35 years (n = 22) with serious mental illness (41% had diagnosed psychotic disorders) who smoked daily. From May 2019 to August 2019, researchers conducted and transcribed five hour-long focus groups. Moderated discussions included questions about past attempts to quit or reduce smoking and perceptions of using smoking cessation apps to support quit or reduction attempts. Researchers used thematic analysis to identify key themes in focus group transcripts.
- Participants expressed interest in smoking cessation apps that could offer ongoing motivation through in-app social support from other users, progress tracking and feedback (e.g. number of cigarettes avoided, money saved), and rewards (e.g. financial incentives, badges).
- Participants wanted apps to increase awareness of smoking patterns (e.g. daily frequency and quantity, time of day, triggers) and provide distraction (e.g. suggestions for alternative activities, in-app games).
- Participants worried that an app could trigger cravings by referencing cigarettes or smoking and voiced concerns over the lack of external accountability in apps (e.g. users could enter false information into the self-tracking features) yet expressed unfavorable opinions of biochemical verification techniques (e.g. breath carbon monoxide monitoring).
- Mobile apps may have the potential to support smoking cessation or reduction in young adult smokers with serious mental illness and educate users about the safety and efficacy (overall) of prescription smoking cessation medications for this population.
- Representative end-users identified preferences for app content and features that could inform development of smoking cessation apps tailored to the unique needs of this population, many of whom smoke to manage mental health symptoms (e.g. stress, anxiety, depression).
- App design may require additional tailoring, optimization, and clinical support to effectively facilitate smoking cessation in this population.
- Future research could assess end-user responses to using smoking cessation apps and the efficacy of cessation apps in young adult smokers with serious mental illness.
Gowarty MA, Kung NJ, Maher AE, Longacre MR, Brunette MF. Perceptions of Mobile Apps for Smoking Cessation Among Young People in Community Mental Health Care: Qualitative Study. JMIR Formative Research. 2 October 2020. doi: 10.2196/19860