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It is a proven fact that smoking cigarettes is a deadly habit (Bonnie, Stratton, & Wallace, 2007). There are various ways for a cigarette smoke to destroy the lives of people (Gupta, 1993). This habit can lead to cancer, pre-cancerous lesions and abnormalities can also develop in the oral cavity (Mason, 2004). As a result it can cause great pain and death. Addiction to nicotine can lead to premature death. However, prior to death, the person can lead an unproductive life because of numerous health problems associated to smoking such as weakened lungs, bad breath, stained fingers, discoloration in lips and tongue. It is therefore important to stop smoking preserve quality of life and to prevent premature death. Teenagers must quit the habit and one strategy is to use computer applications (“apps”) that can be loaded into mobile phones.
A nicotine addict will attest that once the habit has taken hold of their lives it is almost impossible to quit. Smokers will also confirm that they are aware of the horror stories and had seen the graphic images of diseased bodies but all these things are powerless when it comes to their desire to quit the habit. Nicotine addicts will also attest that they desperately wanted to change their lifestyle in terms of the use of cigarettes but for many of them there seems to be no hope. According to one report there was an increased number of smokers who expressed the desire to quit, however, the actual number of people who were able to quit the habit is less than five percent (Rabinoff, 2006). A critical insight that can be gleaned from the said report is that one of the major factors linked to failure is the fact that smokers were unable to quit the habit on their own without outside help (Rabinoff, 2006).
One possible solution is to provide nicotine supplements. But there is no need to elaborate the fact that nicotine supplements is not enough to break the habit (Wilson & Kolander, 2005). Another possible solution is the use of medication. However, there are studies that underscore the fact that many smokers will not be able to quit smoking with the help of medication alone (Wilson & Kolander, 2005)
At Kaiser Permanente an institution established to cater to nicotine addicts, it was discovered that one year cessation rates was significantly increased to a rate of 40% when medication and classes were combined to help them (Rabinoff, 2006). These findings highlight the fact that smokers need assistance when it comes to their habit. No man is an island when it comes to addiction-related behaviour but the main problem right now is the effective delivery of smoking cessation strategies and to develop those that can significantly increase the success rates of participants and the smoking cessation program.
An information package delivered to the mobile phone can only deal with one aspect of the problem. It is important to point out that a dose of nicotine creates a rewarding effect that explains the addiction to cigarettes (West & Hardy, 2005). In other words habit has altered the way a person feels. There is now a psychological element brought about by the habit. The mind can also establish an associative link “between the activity of smoking, the sensory aspect of smoking a cigarette and the rewarding effect of nicotine (West & Hardy, 2005, p.185). It is not enough to bombard the target client with information about the hazards of smoking. It is also imperative to deal with the other social factors involve in smoking cigarettes and nicotine addiction.
Smoking cessation experts can greatly benefit from the field of psychology such as behaviourism. This scientific field provides crucial information when it comes to conditioning techniques that can be used to alter behaviour. One insight that can be gleaned from this field is the realisation that “In situations where an immediate response is required, practice situations are repeatedly endlessly so that the soldier, fire-fighter or airline pilot will make the correct, possibly life-saving response in a given situation” (Pritchard, 2009, p.5). Therefore, it is critical to develop cessation programs that enable the target client to repeat a particular action and therefore develop a habit that can counter another automatic reaction to a given stimuli. For example, there is a psychological effect when an addict holds a cigarette in his hand.
Another phenomenon to consider is the learning process or how a person acquires skills to perform tasks or solve problems (Pritchard, 2009, p.5). Behaviourism can help explain why a person reacts to a particular stimulus (Pritchard, 2009, p.5). Behaviourism can be used as part of the building blocks for the creation of an effective cessation program.
It can be argued that the best strategy for teenagers is to develop computer applications that can help them overcome the habit. These are potential benefits: “new technologies will rescue stretched health service budgets, reach under-served populations, save patients time and money, help in the training of health professionals, democratise access to knowledge and thereby produce patients who are better informed about their conditions … and consequently, place fewer demands on health services” (Gatrell, 2005, p.181). In other words there is now a way to access information without the need to go to a clinic or hospital. There is now a way to monitor the progress of a patient without forcing the person to visit the physician.
Overall Design and User Experience
Quitter is free iPhone app that can help teenagers quit smoking (Bell, 2011, p.1). The mobile phone application was designed around the idea of financial incentive. In other words teenagers will stop smoking the moment they realize that they spend a great deal of money in order to sustain a very costly habit. It is a simple mobile phone application and its primary function is to inform the user how many days had passed without the use of a cigarette (Bell, 2011, p.1). At the same time the software informs the user the amount of money that was saved. The incentive comes in the form of statistical figures on the amount of money that was saved. The user can see the amount increase and it is a great motivator that once the urge is suppressed the amount of money that can be saved also increases. The only problem is that it may not be an effective tool for teenagers that do not care about the money they spend for their habit. Furthermore, although the app is free it can only be used in an iPhone.
Another important mobile phone application is the MyQuit Coach and it was created for the iPhone platform. The said mobile phone application creates a personalized plan that can help the teenager to quit smoking (Bell, 2011, p.1). The great thing about this software is that it was created with the help of a physician. The app can be used to motivate the person to quit smoking immediately and drop the habit without delay. But for a more realistic approach the software can be used to plan for a strategy to gradually decrease the consumption of cigarettes. The MyQuit Coach provides progress charts that can help the user visualize his or her progress. In addition, the user also receives inspirational photos and motivational tips (Bell, 2011, p.1). The only problem here is that the app can only be used in an iPhone and not in any other platform.
Another important application is Quit. According to the developers it is a widget application that can help teenagers to gradually overcome the smoking habit (Google Play, 2012, p.1). It is a highly interactive app that creates the feeling of having someone watching or assisting the person with the habit. There is an intuitive graphical interface that enables the user to input information with regards to urge and stress levels. At the same time there is a feature wherein the app asks the user if he or she can wait for 1 hour before lighting another cigarette. The best thing about this app is that it can be used in almost any type of Smartphone.
Benefits for Users
The beauty of the MyQuit Coach is that it can provide the user a progress chart to monitor the reduction rate in the number of cigarettes consumed on a daily or weekly basis. It can easily inspire the user because there is a visual representation of the effort put into the struggle to quit smoking. It is a major advantage compared to the personal attempt to stop smoking without the help of tools. If there is nothing that can force the user to be accountable for his or her actions then the urge to quit may not be as strong.
The importance of the Quitter app is that it is simple to use and install. It does not cost anything. Therefore, it can easily encourage first time users to try this app. The easy installation and the easy instructions can motivate the teenager to begin the process. It is also a great motivator because it provides a visual representation of the amount of money that can be saved when a teenager refrains from using cigarettes.
The great advantage of the Quit app is that it is highly interactive. Consider the psychological impact of the feature that asks the user if he or she can control the urge not to smoke for another hour. It is like having a physician nearby. It is like having a friend that helps the person deal with the struggle of smoking cigarettes. More importantly, the moment the teenager can control the urge for an hour it creates a psychological boost that the smoking habit can be defeated.
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If one will create a generalized opinion on the computer applications that are available in the market one can conclude that information and communication technology can be used to eradicate the limitations that hampered the capability of physicians and patients to interact. There is no more problem with time constraints because there is no need to travel from home to a health care facility. There is no need for the physician to be in a particular place just to check the improvements or decline in health of the patient. The physician can use mobile technologies to talk as if it was done in a face-to-face manner.
There are no pitfalls or dangers that can be associated with the use of computer applications. These software applications can be compared to mobile phone games. There is a big difference between a mobile phone application and other strategies that entails the use of equipment and requires the user to perform real tasks. In this case, the user simply uses his or her hands or fingers to operate a mobile phone. There are no inherent risks to the users. The mobile applications analyzed in the previous sections are safe to use.
Mobile phone applications are important tools in the struggle against the smoking habit. It costs very little to install and use. There is no need to learn a particular skill to use it. The user is faced with a highly-intuitive computer program that can easily gather personal information at the touch of a button. Therefore, it is easy to use without the need to go out of the home and talk to another person. There is no safety issue with the use of mobile phone applications especially when one considers the fact that the user spends a few minutes on the mobile phone in order to interact with the said computer application.
The harmful effects of nicotine addiction through the constant use of cigarettes have created a health problem in many parts of the world. Nevertheless, information regarding death and devastating health effects is not enough to compel people to break the habit. It is important to consider the use of information and communication technology to enhance current smoking cessation programs. An example is the development of interactive programs that force the individual to focus on the apps and distract the mind in order to break the associative link between cigarettes and the feeling of reward from a puff of smoke.
Bell, K 2011, Best apps to help you quit smoking, Web.
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Pritchard, A 2009, Ways of learning: learning theories and learning styles in the classroom, Routledge, United Kingdom.
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