National / Science & Health

App developed by Keio University and startup proves effective in helping smokers quit

by Chisato Tanaka

Staff Writer

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Friday, smokers who have been fighting a lonely battle against nicotine addiction were given another option in their quest to kick the habit.

Keio University and CureApp Inc., a Tokyo-based medical technology startup, announced Thursday that a clinical trial has proven the effectiveness of their smartphone app designed to help smokers quit.

The app analyzes information from patients undergoing smoking cessation treatment, such as their health condition and the level of carbon monoxide in their breath, in order to give them daily advice on what they should do to keep themselves from lighting up.

“In normal smoking cessation treatment, doctors are unable to treat patients’ psychological addiction until their next regularly scheduled session. This has been an obstacle for patients who had to fight (the addiction) alone,” said Dr. Kota Satake, president of the organization and a respiratory physician, in a statement. Thus, the patients can check the app every day to ease their psychological addiction.

The university and medical venture conducted trials of the app with the cooperation of 572 people who sought medical help at 31 medical institutions in the country from October 2017 to the end of 2018. A total of 285 people used the app during the trial, while 287 didn’t use it.

They found 64 percent of the group who used the app remained smoke-free six months later, while only 50 percent of the group without the app had kept themselves from smoking.

“To deliver this app, which will make up for the shortcomings of (smoking cessation) treatment, as soon as possible, I will put all my effort into getting government approval for the app as a medical tool, and having it covered under the public medical insurance system,” Satake said.

In Japan, 17.7 percent of people in their 20s or older regularly smoked tobacco in 2017, with the percentage decreasing from 24.4 percent in 2007, according to the health ministry. The highest ratio of smokers were males in their 30s and 40s at around 40 percent.

While treatment to help people quit smoking has been covered by public medical insurance since fiscal 2006, a study conducted by the health ministry in fiscal 2017 shows that only 27 percent of those who went through it succeeded in staying away from smoking a year after they started treatment.

Momentum for a smoke-free environment has been pushed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The metropolitan government will submit a bill in June to the metropolitan assembly to fully implement an ordinance that bans smoking in restaurants and bars, regardless of the number of employees and size.

Information from Kyodo added