UW study uses video games to help smokers quit

Video games were distraction from cravings

A study being conducted by the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention is looking into whether video games on a smart phone can help smokers quit.

In combination with medication and cessation counseling, smokers enrolled in the study are asked to play a video game on the smart phone when they have a craving to smoke.

“One of the biggest challenges is craving and urges to smoke,” says Tanya Schlam, an associate scientist with the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.

According to the CDC, 36.5 million Americans currently smoke cigarettes and 7 in 10 reportedly want to quit. Only 10 to 30 percent are able to achieve long-term abstinence.

The use of the video games on smart phones is being looked at as a way of getting smokers past the cravings, which can last for two to four weeks after quitting.

“We only have so much space in our brains to think about things and if you can occupy what we call the cognitive workspace with games, then theory at any rate is that you won’t have as much room to be feeling the cravings,” says Schlam.

The data from the study is currently under analysis, but some of the 30 individuals enrolled saw success.

“We haven’t analyzed the data yet, but anecdotally some people said that the games helped them quit, helped them with cravings and gave them something to do with their hands and also with their mind,” says Schlam.

For more information about programs to quit smoking visit the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention’s website at: www.ctri.wisc.edu