A QUIT smoking app from Australia is using the combination of peer-support and extinction therapy to help smokers butt out for good.
Kick.it is an iPhone app developed in South Australia that helps users quit smoking through friendly intervention.
Whenever users get the urge to smoke, they log onto the app where they are met with a community of support to encourage them to persevere with their journey to quit.
Users are encouraged to join with their friends and compete with each other to break unwanted habits.
Every time a person begins to feel like smoking, through triggers such as seeing someone smoke or being in certain social situations, it is often met with the reward of a cigarette.
Kick.it uses a range of techniques, including extinction therapy, to replace the habit of picking up a cigarette with logging into the app.
It is a top-five finalist for the US-based MassChallenge accelerator program following a five-day bootcamp at its headquarters in Boston last week.
Founder and former smoker James Stewart said although a lot of countries had programs to help smokers, many people chose to avoid them.
He said in his experience, people usually took up the habit because their friends or family smoked and the best way to break it was through a similar process.
“We can tailor programs for different types of smokers so it’s relevant for every user,” Stewart said.
“It can be your peers or your family and includes campaigns like friendly competition where a smoker gives up cigarettes and a friend journeys with them by giving up something as well like lollies or chocolate.”
“You can put a lot of evidence based stuff into an app but it probably won’t have an effect on breaking a habit. Our techniques work to replace the cigarette with the phone until it becomes a habit.”
South Australia's Bridge to Mass Challenge finalists from left to right: Leila Henderson (Freddi), Ben Flink (Sophie), Selena Woodward (Edufolios) and James Stewart (Kick.it).
Kick.it was developed with the help of Adelaide-based developer Codefish and also provides a list of research on smoking as well as helpful tips to complement its peer support focus.
These include effective distraction techniques such as deep breathing exercises or drinking water.
According to the World Health Organisation there are more than a billion smokers worldwide and although it reports that only a third of countries repeatedly update surveys every five years.
The WHO also reports that about six million people die from smoking a year, including more than 600,000 people from second-hand smoking.
A recent study by the Medical University of South Carolina found that extinction therapy was an effective treatment technique.
The study demonstrated that when a person was exposed to triggers such as lighters or people smoking but did not engage in the habit, they were able to smoke significantly less cigarettes.
Stewart said Kick.it was also looking to partner with professional industry support organisations.
“People don’t just want information about smoking, they want something that will tell them how much money they have saved or how long they have been smoke free for, which is good,” he said.
“We want to be come the best smoking cessation app in the world where it’s got both the community and professional industry assistance at people’s fingertips.”
Stewart said the app would eventually expand to include community-help initiatives to address other unwanted habits such as bad diets or lack of exercise.
Kick.it is in the running for a place in one of MassChallenge’s five world accelerators in the United States, Mexico, Switzerland, Israel or England and the opportunity to share in a US$1 million prize pool.
MassChallenge is a United States-based not-for-profit start-up accelerator program providing support to the highest-impact and highest-potential start-ups and entrepreneurs. To date, 1211 MassChallenge alumni have raised over $1.8 billion in funding, generated over $700 million in revenue, and created over 60,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Kick.it will pitch its vision to the MassChallenge program in April and plans an official launch of its iOS app later this year.