Sept. 21 (UPI) -- A mobile app that encourages users to overcome the urge to smoke was nearly 50% more likely to get people to successfully quit than one that focuses on avoiding urges, a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.
The app, called iCanQuit, is based on acceptance and commitment therapy, which teaches people to embrace their thoughts and feelings. This includes resisting triggers that may make smokers want to light up instead of fighting or feeling guilty for them, the researchers said.
Researchers reported 28% of the more than 1,000 app users in the study successfully quit smoking, compared to 21% of those who worked with the alternative approach.
"Allowing and opening to cravings is the opposite of the standard quit smoking programs that focus on avoiding and distracting from cravings," study co-author Jonathan B. Bricker told UPI.
"iCanQuit's focus on acceptance, helping people just notice and let go of their cravings to smoke is the key ingredient that makes the app effective," said Bricker, director of the Behavioral Innovations in Technology Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
Bricker and his colleagues compared iCanQuit to an app developed by the National Cancer Institute that focuses on teaching users to avoid triggers, such as stress or certain social situations, that may increase the urge to smoke.
They compared the effectiveness of the two apps in 2,415 current cigarette smokers, 70% of whom were women.
After one year, iCanQuit users were 49% more likely than those working with the other app to have completely abstained from smoking for at least the past 30 days, the data showed.
In addition, smokers treated with iCanQuit were twice as likely to report prolonged abstinence from tobacco use, the researchers said.
Although the percentage of American adults who smoke has dropped to about 14% in 2018 from 22% in 2005, use of e-cigarettes among teens has risen sharply recently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young people who use tobacco products -- including the roughly one in four middle- and high-school students who vape -- are more likely to use tobacco as adults, agency research suggests.
"We think iCanQuit could help young people stop vaping," Bricker said. "This [study] recruited adults, [and] we found that iCanQuit was effective at helping people stop all forms of tobacco use, including vaping, so there is certainly promise."