How to quit smoking using your smartphone

how your smartphone can help you quit smoking cigarettes

I started smoking in my early teens. I live in Scotland and when I was young, you could smoke legally from the age of sixteen. Actually that’s not accurate — in Scotland you could smoke at any age because it was only illegal to sell tobacco to anyone under the age limit. That age limit has now been raised to eighteen. In 1996, UK government statistics revealed that 13 percent of young people aged between eleven and fifteen were smokers. It was easy to buy cigarettes when I was growing up. You could get them at a corner shop. The ice cream van that came round my area even sold “singles” – a single cigarette and a match.

I never went beyond a pack a day, but I was definitely one of those smokers who thought they’d never quit. Lighting up after a big meal, with a pint in hand, or after some bedroom gymnastics was just unbeatable. I remember going to Seattle for a conference a few years ago and being surprised that not only could you not smoke inside; you couldn’t even stand near a door and smoke. In 2006, the Scottish government banned smoking in workplaces and enclosed public spaces. I went outside to smoke. 

The process of giving up smoking has spawned a huge industry. There are loads of books out there, patches and gum, hypnosis and pills. I have a friend who hasn’t smoked in over ten years, but is still chewing the gum daily. Before you think about what will help you quit, you need the right motivation.

After twenty years as a smoker it was the pitter patter of tiny feet that finally persuaded me to quit. I couldn’t smoke around my pregnant wife and having children made me really consider my lifespan for the first time. Since I’m a big fan of technology I decided to turn to it for help. I discovered that your smartphone can help you quit. Here’s how it helped me.

Quit smoking apps

You’ll find a lot of smoking cessation apps on the market. When you go to choose a quit smoking app, you need to decide what approach you’re going to adopt. Are you quitting “cold turkey” or do you want to gradually reduce smoking toward a final quit date?

My favorite app is QuitNow! It’s a free, ad-supported app on the Android platform. It offers up some stats showing you the time since you quit, how many smokes you have avoided, and how much money you have saved. There’s also info on the health benefits, as well as some tips and advice from other smokers trying to kick the habit. I’m a gamer so the achievement unlock feature appealed to me, as well. Basically, you unlock achievements by not smoking; it’s the same principle as AA chips.

how your smartphone can help you quit smoking quitnow

To be honest, most of the smoking cessation apps offer the same features. Get Rich or Die Smoking is my favorite title for one of these apps. It shows you what you could buy with the money you’ve saved by not smoking. You’ll find Quit Smoking: Cessation Nation and Breathe freely! are both worth a look as well. If you need an app for the iPhone then LIVESTRONG MyQuit Coach is good, although it does cost $4 — expensive for an app, but cheaper than a pack of cigarettes.

Your smartphone is your cigarette

One technique I’ve used is replacing my need to do something like smoke with my phone. Every time you get the urge to smoke you should play with your phone instead. You can always dip into a quit smoking app for some inspiration. You can also call someone for support or just as a distraction. Some of the most helpful apps for me giving up smoking weren’t smoking cessation apps at all, but addictive tower defense games with the power to distract me for long enough that the craving passed.

Once you crack the actual physical addiction, you’re just left with the powerful mental urge to smoke. Mostly it’s all about triggers, like finishing a meal, taking a break at work, drinking alcohol with friends, whatever you used to do when you enjoyed those golden smokes. If you can keep your hands busy then that’s a good start towards beating the need to smoke. That’s why playing with your touchscreen is so good — whether it’s dipping into a quick game or checking Facebook for the 237th time that day — it’s not smoking and that’s the point.

Emotional blackmail

The most powerful way to kill that urge to smoke is to use your motivation for quitting in the first place. For me, it was my kids and, as cheesy as it sounds, looking at photos of them or calling them is a powerful form of emotional motivation that makes me reconsider taking that smoke. This method is not advisable at all times though, especially since you’ll face some of your worst temptations when you are drunk.

With smartphones, we have the means to contact people wherever we are and the equivalent of a family album of photos and a pile of home videos in our pocket. Use it. A smartphone is a handy tool in life and so it should come as no surprise that it can help you quit smoking too.

Can’t quit, change your addiction

If you really can’t kick the habit no matter what you try then maybe you should consider e-cigarettes or even e-cigars and e-pipes. They’re the closest thing you can get to smoking without actually smoking and they’re likely a lot healthier for you.

Your smartphone is also a great replacement addiction. According to a “Mobile Mindset Study” by Lookout a while back, nearly 58 percent of us can’t go an hour without checking our phones, 39 percent check them on the toilet, 54 percent check them in bed, and 30 percent check them during meals with others. I’m guilty on all charges, but at least I don’t smoke anymore.

No matter how you slice it, your smartphone can be one of your best tools to fight your urge to smoke. Use it.


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