BACKGROUND: Tobacco smoking remains one of the biggest public health threats. Smartphone apps offer new promising opportunities for supporting smoking cessation in real-time. The social context of smokers has, however, been neglected in smartphone apps promoting smoking cessation. This randomized controlled trial investigates the effectiveness of a smartphone app in which smokers quit smoking with the help of a social network member.
METHODS: This protocol describes the design of a single-blind, two-arm, parallel-group, intensive longitudinal randomized controlled trial. Participants of this study are adult smokers who smoke at least one cigarette per day and intend to quit smoking at a self-set quit date. Blocking as means of group-balanced randomization is used to allocate participants to intervention or control conditions. Both intervention and control group use a smartphone-compatible device for measuring their daily smoking behavior objectively via exhaled carbon monoxide. In addition, the intervention group is instructed to use the SmokeFree Buddy app, a multicomponent app that also facilitates smoking-cessation specific social support from a buddy over a smartphone application. All participants fill out a baseline diary for three consecutive days and are invited to the lab for a background assessment. They subsequently participate in an end-of-day diary phase from 7 days before and until 20 days after a self-set quit date. Six months after the self-set quit date a follow-up diary for three consecutive days takes place. The primary outcome measures are daily self-reported and objectively-assessed smoking abstinence and secondary outcome measures are daily self-reported number of cigarettes smoked.
DISCUSSION: This is the first study examining the effectiveness of a smoking cessation mobile intervention using the SmokeFree Buddy app compared to a control group in a real-life setting around a self-set quit date using a portable objective measure to assess smoking abstinence. Opportunities and challenges with running studies with smoking participants and certain design-related decisions are discussed.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was prospectively registered on 04/04/2018 at ISRCTNregistry: ISRCTN11154315 .