A new study finds that iPhone software applications designed to help people quit smoking fall short of the mark because they do not meet accepted standards. The findings, to be published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, show that the 47 apps—both free and paid—reviewed rarely helped users get assistance through counseling, hotlines, or antismoking medications. About half of the apps supported hypnosis, which has questionable effectiveness, according to the study.

“They’d give you personalized motivation, and at least a quarter of them would ask you how much you smoke and when you plan to quit, and then they’d give you personalized feedback about the money you’d save and what you’d gain,” says Lorien Abroms, study lead author and professor of health communication and marketing at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “What they did terribly is that they didn’t recommend or refer to a quit line.”

In addition, she adds, “on the whole, they didn’t mention using nicotine replacement therapy, which has been proven to help people quit smoking. And very few apps helped you to get social support or reminded you to get it, which is also crucial to quitting smoking.”

Even so, apps do hold potential to be a valuable tool to help people stop smoking, says Abroms. Researchers have already shown that text messages provide helpful motivation to people who are trying to quit, and she believes smartphones might be even more useful because they are capable of providing a fuller multimedia experience.

Source: Health Behavior News Service