Do apps, hypnosis and vaping help with quitting smoking? Here's what science says

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  • Worldwide, smoking is responsible for more than eight million deaths annually.
  • To reduce the impact of smoking, interventions such as hypnotherapy, smoking cessation apps and vaping are commonly used.
  • Some of the interventions work, while others don't and can even be harmful.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer and cancer-related deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco use kills more than eight million people each year. More than seven million of those deaths result from direct tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Many interventions have been created to help people stop their smoking habit. These include vaping, hypnosis and apps. But are these methods scientifically proven to work? Here's what the science says.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis is one of the most common methods of aiding smoking cessation. It is intended to act on underlying impulses to weaken one's desire to smoke or strengthen the will to stop smoking.

2019 study reviewed 14 research articles, involving a total of 1 926 subjects. The studies lasted at least six months but varied in terms of how they compared hypnosis to other interventions.

The study results show that hypnotherapy has little benefit, and does not have greater long-term benefits than other interventions for smoking cessation. 

"There is insufficient evidence to support the use of hypnotherapy as a specific treatment for smoking cessation," the study authors conclude.

Apps 

Living in a digital age, there are apps for almost everything. Smoking cessation is no exception. But do these apps help people quit smoking? According to a 2022 study published in the Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet, smartphone apps for smoking cessation can be a valuable tool in helping people stop smoking. However, the researchers say that not all apps are the same, as the contents of the apps vary.

In their analysis of 76 apps available on app stores, the researchers found that only five incorporated advice from healthcare professionals. The majority of apps were devised by people whose credentials are unknown. "It is unclear if these individuals have any specific training in the delivery of smoking cessation interventions," the paper states.

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that apps that featured goals, point scoring or other means of gamification were effective in helping people quit smoking.

"Gamification embedded in mobile apps can have positive effects on self-efficacy and motivation to quit smoking," the study states.

Vaping

Manufacturers of vapes have marketed the electronic smoking device as a harm reduction tool that can help people stop smoking. But the WHO advises against vaping or using e-cigarettes as they are "harmful to health and not safe".

"E-cigarettes are particularly risky when used by children and adolescents. Nicotine is highly addictive, and young people's brains develop up to their mid-twenties. Electronic nicotine delivery systems use [to] increase the risk of heart disease and lung disorders. They also pose significant risks to pregnant women who use them, as they can damage the growing foetus," the international body states.

The WHO also warns that the marketing around vapes involves deceptive health claims, and invalid claims regarding cessation efficacy, and entices young people, especially with flavours.

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