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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Jul 3;7(7):e13436. doi: 10.2196/13436.

Leveraging Positive Psychology to Support Smoking Cessation in Nondaily Smokers Using a Smartphone App: Feasibility and Acceptability Study.

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Recovery Research Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, United States.
Behavioral Medicine Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, United States.
School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA, United States.
Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, RI, United States.



Nondaily smoking is an increasingly prevalent smoking pattern that poses substantial health risks.


We tested the feasibility of using a smartphone app with positive psychology exercises to support smoking cessation in nondaily smokers.


In this prospective, single-group pilot study, nondaily smokers (n=30) used version 1 of the Smiling Instead of Smoking (SiS) app for 3 weeks while undergoing a quit attempt. The app assigned daily happiness exercises, provided smoking cessation tools, and made smoking cessation information available. Participants answered surveys at baseline and 2, 6, 12, and 24 weeks after their chosen quit day and participated in structured user feedback sessions 2 weeks after their chosen quit day.


App usage during the prescribed 3 weeks of use was high, with an average 84% (25.2/30) of participants using the app on any given day. App use was largely driven by completing happiness exercises (73%, 22/30) of participants per day), which participants continued to complete even after the end of the prescribed period. At the end of prescribed use, 90% (27/30) of participants reported that the app had helped them during their quit attempt, primarily by reminding them to stay on track (83%, 25/30) and boosting their confidence to quit (80%, 24/30) and belief that quitting was worthwhile (80%, 24/30). Happiness exercises were rated more favorably than user-initiated smoking cessation tools, and 80% (24/30) of participants proactively expressed in interviews that they liked them. App functionality to engage social support was not well received. Functionality to deal with risky times was rated useful but was rarely used. Within-person changes from baseline to the end of prescribed use were observed for several theorized mechanisms of behavior change, all in the expected direction: confidence increased (on a 0-100 scale, internal cues: b=16.7, 95% CI 7.2 to 26.3, P=.001; external cues: b=15.8, 95% CI 5.4 to 26.1, P=.004), urge to smoke decreased (on a 1-7 scale, b=-0.8, 95% CI -1.3 to -0.3, P=.002), and perceptions of smoking became less positive (on a 1-5 scale, psychoactive benefits: b=-0.5, 95% CI -0.9 to -0.2, P=.006; pleasure: b=-0.4, 95% CI -0.7 to -0.01, P=.03; on a 0-100 scale, importance of pros of smoking: b=-11.3, 95% CI -18.9 to -3.8, P=.004). Self-reported abstinence rates were 40% (12/30) and 53% (16/30) of participants 2 and 24 weeks post quit, respectively, with 30% (9/30) biochemically validated as abstinent 2 weeks post quit.


A smartphone app using happiness exercises to aid smoking cessation was well received by nondaily smokers. Given the high nonadherence and dropout rates for technology-delivered interventions reported in the literature, the high engagement with positive psychology exercises is noteworthy. Observed within-person changes and abstinence rates are promising and warrant further development of this app.


cigarettes; happiness; mHealth; smartphone; smoking cessation

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