Smoking Cessation Tools in the Digital Health Space

Roxana Said, MPH

A major challenge facing those involved in smoking cessation efforts is the relatively low rate of sustained success. New technologies offer a potential opportunity to improve that situation. Common smoking cessation methods such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), medications, counseling, and quitlines have proven over time their efficacy in helping smokers quit. Yet, as traditional medicine and clinical treatments progress to catch up with current day technology, new tools to help smokers quit are also emerging.

Novel, innovative, and personalized digital tools are being introduced to the market. Such technologies include smartphone apps, messaging platforms,  social networking mediums, and offerings that combine several digital modalities. These may help certain consumers overcome their nicotine addiction more effectively.

Some digital health startups and companies have developed smoking cessation tools/products that are driven and backed by the collection of behavioral health data including craving patterns, stressors, and smoking routines. One example is a digital transdermal patch that releases nicotine at timed intervals when cravings are strongest. Seventy-five percent of smokers have their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking up; this digital NRT solves the morning craving by providing support before the craving strikes. Other tools include smart lighters and cigarette cases that track smoking and support the consumer by providing insightful feedback on making healthier decisions. Personalized and actionable, these types of tailored tools can help consumers understand and manage their addiction- and more importantly-- offer a platform for consumers to be proactive about their treatment and overall health.

System-wide technological advances are also underway. Bi-directional e-referrals to the California Smokers’ Helpline, which are currently being adopted and integrated into EHR systems, have yielded impressive outcomes. The UC Quits Initiative, led by Dr. Elisa Tong, spearheaded this type of integration within 5 University of California hospitals. This system prompts providers to intervene and seamlessly refer patients to the quitline. To date, a total of 6,204 referrals have been recorded, and numbers continue to grow. Thus, systematically changing the way providers help their patients quit smoking.

The alignment of new and existing tools with provider education and training can offer diverse treatment options that can better help and empower patients to quit tobacco. 

Questions or comments on this piece? Please contact Roxana Said at [email protected]