The use of mobile technology for smoking cessation holds promise for adolescents, who do not typically access traditional treatments, but most are not grounded in theory or mechanism. Operant conditioning theory suggests an addictive smoking loop is formed between nicotine use and affective states, leading to habitual cue-induced craving and automatic behavior; mindfulness training may bring automated smoking behavior into awareness, so smokers may work mindfully with cravings. Mindfulness training delivered via smartphone technology therefore has potential to help adolescent smokers break this addictive loop and quit smoking. This pair-matched cluster-randomized controlled school-based pilot study evaluated program feasibility and preliminary smoking outcomes in relation to intervention engagement.
Six high schools were pair-matched and randomly assigned to one of three interventions: (1) mindfulness training delivered via mobile smoking cessation application (Craving to Quit, C2Q), (2) NCI’s QuitSTART smoking cessation application (NCI), and (3) written cessation materials (Materials). Adolescents (n = 146) smoking 5 or more cigarettes per day were recruited. Interventions were implemented over 4 weeks and study assessments were collected at baseline and 3- and 6-month follow-up periods, including self-reported 7-day point prevalence abstinence, program usage, smoking-related measures, and psychosocial factors.
Overall, cotinine-validated abstinence at 6 months was 15.8% and was similar between conditions. Odds of abstinence increased with each quartile increase in app/materials use with no significant differences between conditions (OR = 1.60 (C2Q), 1.66 (Materials), and 2.69 (NCI)). Of participants still smoking at 6 months, for each quartile increase in engagement, the number of cigarettes smoked in the previous 7 days showed a significantly greater decline in the C2Q condition (− 5.71) compared with the Materials (− 0.95) and NCI (+ 7.73) condition (p = 0.02 for differences between conditions).
Cotinine-validated abstinence was similar between intervention conditions and tended to increase with greater engagement in each condition. Greater C2Q app engagement among continuing smokers was associated with a significantly greater decline in number of cigarettes smoked compared with the other conditions. The Craving to Quit (C2Q) mobile smoking cessation application with mindfulness training was feasible to use and has promise in assisting adolescents to quit or decrease cigarette smoking.
Developing a Smartphone App with Mindfulness Training for Teen Smoking Cessation: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02218281