By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - February 25, 2020
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease in the United States. Still, an estimated 34 million Americans smoke. Many have tried to quit, but overcoming nicotine addiction isn’t easy, even with the current cessation programs and tools available. Moffitt Cancer Center’s Tobacco Research and Intervention Program is taking smoking cessation into the next generation, developing an augmented reality (AR) app to assist smokers in their journey to quit.
“We have conducted numerous smoking cessation studies at Moffitt. Our research has shown that cessation tools and interventions work in our lab or clinic setting, but in a real world setting, there are triggers that can cause powerful cravings to smoke,” said Thomas Brandon, Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program and chair of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Program at Moffitt.
This is where augmented reality comes in. Moffitt researchers worked with app designers to develop a tool that can be a supplement to smoking cessation programs. The app allows smokers to interact with computer-generated smoking triggers so that they can learn to better resist that trigger and the urge to reach for a cigarette. The computer-generated cues are like what you would see in a social media filter or how during a televised football game the first down line is projected on the screen. The research team is now ready to launch their study to collect feedback from smokers about the early versions of the app — Project DART or Developing Augmented Reality for Tobacco.
“Our team may not be able to physically be with smokers at every moment, but an overwhelming majority of smokers own a cellphone or tablet,” said Christine Vinci, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and assistant member of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Program at Moffitt. “This app is an innovative approach that allows smokers to train themselves to resist smoking cues in the real world — their home, workplace, or wherever they typically would smoke.”
The study is recruiting participants to provide feedback during app development. Smokers who are interested in learning more about Project DART can contact a research coordinator by emailing ProjectDART@Moffitt.org, calling 813-745-7747 or visiting the study website.