Can AI Support Smoking Cessation Efforts?

Can AI Support Smoking Cessation Efforts?

smoking cessation

Here’s a surprising fact: well over half of tobacco users worldwide – 60%, to be exact – say they want to quit cigarette smoking, according to a study published by JAMA Health Open. Unfortunately, only half of that percentage has access to the tools they need, like counselors, to take action. Science has established the importance of social support to success in a smoking cessation journey: in a study of over 7,000 smokers, 70.7% of those who relied on social support while trying to quit smoking intended to quit, improving their positive behavioral intentions.

However, not everyone has access to a supportive network, especially smokers. Research published in The Lancet found that, over time, smokers reduced social contact and became less engaged or lonely compared to non-smokers. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in; health organizations have attempted to assess its potentially vital role in helping deter smokers from picking up cigarettes. AI has transformed the world in various ways, though its healthcare applications are still in their relative infancy. But when combined with traditional quit methods, can AI make a difference?

The current state of AI for smoking cessation

The use of AI for smoking cessation is primarily centered around inventive machine learning systems, which send messages to smokers to remind them of their commitment to quit. In 2020, the World Health Organization launched “Florence,” their first virtual health worker, dedicated to helping tobacco users by dispelling smoking-related myths and creating a tailored quit plan. However, this requires smokers to initiate a conversation actively; it doesn’t account for blind spots or triggers throughout a person’s day where they may be tempted to smoke.

In this vein, university researchers in the UK created an app called Quit Sense, which employs location- and trigger-sensing technology and AI to identify areas where users have previously smoked. When the user is in those areas, the app sends messages to assist them in managing their urges – providing targeted support when users need it most. 75% of smokers who were offered the app installed it on their smartphones, but average quit attempt durations only lasted one month, indicating the need for further modification and experimentation.

AI as supplementary support

As promising as AI could be for smokers, they are a long way from effective implementation, which is why they should make up only one part of a more comprehensive health solution. This could include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), an evidence-based smoking cessation method that minimizes withdrawal symptoms. For those who want to pursue a smokeless quit journey, the On! pouches sold on Prilla are discreet, tobacco-free, and come in various flavors, from Coffee 2mg for morning consumption to Mint 8mg for heavy users. They can be purchased online for convenience and a complete selection of varieties and strengths. When quitters receive AI reminders to stay on track, they can use these pouches to soothe cravings in place of cigarettes.

Lozenges are another form of NRT that can help soothe the oral fixation associated with cigarette smoking. Nicotine-coated lozenges can come in 2mg and 4mg strengths for consumers who are trying to quit. Ice Mint variations are available for those who want a stronger kick with the familiar flavor of cigarettes. With NRTs widely available in the market and AI innovations on the horizon, could the prospect of higher smoking cessation rates be well within reach?

The future of AI as a smoking cessation tool

Smoking is a public health crisis that the government has worked to address for decades, but with the fast-moving landscape of AI, government agencies may be out of their depth. In our “FDA’s Tentative Steps Toward AI Regulation” article, we talked about the unique challenges the FDA faces in ensuring safe and effective AI adoption while prioritizing the public’s safety and well-being. It’s clear that the government will have to collaborate with two significant sectors – tech and healthcare – to regulate the development of value-adding AI solutions for prospective quitters lacking vital community support.

Cigarette addiction is a complex issue that requires compassionate communication; thus, AI developers must strike a balance between mass adaptability and personalization when developing smoking cessation tools. Finally, these tools could be essential in connecting users to healthcare providers, addiction specialists, or even fellow quitters in their area. In this way, AI would serve as the gateway to real-life medical and community support, improving the odds of one’s quit journey and enriching it.


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