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To evaluate the quality and content of free smoking cessation apps and assess their adherence to the US Public Health Service guideline for treating tobacco use and dependence.
In total 180 apps were downloaded from the App Store and Google Play Store in January 2018; the top-ranking 30 apps were retrieved for the search terms: ‘smoking cessation’, ‘quit smoking’, ‘stop smoking’. Technical quality was rated using the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS) and by assessing other characteristics, behavioral change strategies and adherence to the 5As.
A total 67 free-to-download apps were identified for full review (n = 40 from the Apple App Store and n = 27 from the Google Play Store). The average MARS score was 16.2/19.0: Engagement (3.3/5.0), Functionality (4.4/5.0), Aesthetics (4.0/5.0), and Information (2.6/5.0). Overall, 43 apps allowed sharing, 12 allowed for an app community, and five required a password. The following features were observed: assessment (n = 51), feedback (n = 38), information/education (n = 45), monitoring (n = 52), and goal setting (n = 23). Significant differences were found among apps adhering to the 5As: Ask (n = 44), Advise (n = 54), Assess (n = 30), Assist (n = 62), and Arrange (n = 0).
Given the growth in smoking cessation apps, future efforts should focus on improving their technical quality and adherence to the 5As.
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