The Science

We take research seriously. Everything we do is based on real clinical evidence, and like all good scientists, we publish everything we find!

The science behind quitting smoking

Surveys show that 68% smokers want to quit, yet only 3% actually shake the habit for good [1]. There are many different methods of quitting out there, but a large systematic literature review has shown the most effective way to quit combines pharmacotherapy and behavioural support [2]. This combination of two different methods works so well because they each tackle the two components of nicotine addiction; physical addiction and psychological addiction.

Physical addiction is all about the urges you have to smoke in order to experience the feelings of pleasure and calmness triggered by the nicotine and dopamine released in your brain. With physical addiction comes nicotine withdrawal, symptoms that occur when you stop taking nicotine. Pharmacotherapy aims to reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal to help you quit. The main medications include nicotine replacement therapies, varenicline (Champix), and bupropion (Zyban) [3].

Psychological addiction involves the habits, feelings, or people associated with smoking. For instance, someone who smokes while enjoying their morning cup of coffee may find that they light up each morning without even thinking about it. Psychological addiction is less talked about, and as a result less often treated in those who try to quit smoking. But usually, it’s the most important and enduring component of smoking addiction, and the main cause of relapse in the long-term. At Quit Genius we are working to change that, by providing around-the-clock behavioural support just a few taps away.

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy looks at how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact. It works by inviting individuals to look at aspects of their life that are causing them problems and breaks it down into smaller parts. The aim of CBT is to help change how you think, and therefore how you behave.

Some of the major ways CBT benefits individuals from different walks of life includes lowering symptoms of depressions, reducing anxiety, treating eating disorders, reducing addictive behaviours and substance abuse, and helping to improve self-esteem and confidence.

How can CBT help you quit smoking

CBT breaks down situations into three components: your thoughts, your feelings and your behaviours. It focuses on identifying and altering the thoughts and behaviours that keep people smoking, or that cause them to be unsuccessful when quitting. It combines two approaches; cognitive therapy and behavioural therapy.

The cognitive, or thinking, component of CBT is directed towards your thoughts about smoking and quitting. Often smokers who have unsuccessfully tried to quit multiple times previously can get stuck in negative or self-defeating thoughts hindering any further attempts to quit. CBT replaces these thoughts with a more helpful way of thinking about oneself and one’s experiences. The behavioural aspect is focused on identifying behaviours that promote smoking and replacing them with behaviours that are healthy and protective against smoking urges [4][5][6][7].

The evidence for digital smoking cessation interventions

Science is all about testing new hypotheses and building on what one finds. Researchers from all over the world have already been looking at the potential use for mobile health, or “mHealth”, as a tool in smoking cessation.

A study from the University of California found that smokers preferred personalized and adaptive mHealth apps. Their ideal mHealth quit-smoking app would allow personalized tracking of their progress, adaptively tailored feedback, and real-time peer support to help manage smoking cravings [8]. Another study found that 76% of healthcare providers agreed that mHealth apps hold promise for helping people quit and would even recommend them to their patients [9]. This is the kind of science we want to share with you, because it’s what drives us here at Quit Genius to build the most effective and scientifically proven app we can, to help you quit smoking for good.

Our published research

In the spring of 2015, we set out to answer how to gamify digital health interventions, by making them fun and engaging to use, with the goal of promoting positive health behaviours. To achieve this, we designed a longitudinal qualitative study with data collection spanning 5 months, followed by a further 12 months of analysis. Our work culminated in the world’s first evidence-based framework, which illustrates how positive health behaviour can be promoted by the gamification of mHealth apps. In line with our core values of sharing our research, we published an original research paper in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Serious Games [10].

Our study found that gamification holds the potential for low-cost yet highly effective mobile health interventions. Our framework outlined the two key characteristics required to maximise engagement with a gamified health tool. These two characteristics, critical factors and drivers, are the two tenants which guided the development of Quit Genius. Using the modifiers we found in the study to empower the positive drivers, Quit Genius helps you to maximise your ability and motivation to quit!

Game on? Smoking cessation through the gamification of mHealth: a longitudinal qualitative study

El-Hilly A A*, Iqbal SS*, Ahmed M*, Sherwani Y*, Muntasir M*, Siddiqui S*, Al-Fagih Z, Usmani O S, Eisingerich A B. Published in JMIR Serious Games (2016)


  1. “Stopping Smoking; Benefits And Aids To Quitting”. Ash, 2016. Accessed 23 Oct. 2016. Available from:
  2. Stead, Lindsay F et al. “Combined Pharmacotherapy And Behavioural Interventions For Smoking Cessation”. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2016).
  3. “Pharmacotherapy For Smoking Cessation In Adults”. UpToDate, 2016. Accessed 23 Oct. 2016. Available from:
  4. Sykes, C. M. “Effectiveness Of A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Self-Help Programme For Smokers In London, UK”. Health Promotion International 16.3 (2001): 255-260.
  5. Hall, Sharon M. et al. “Extended Treatment Of Older Cigarette Smokers”. Addiction 104.6 (2009): 1043-1052.
  6. Guimarães, Flávia Melo Campos Leite et al. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treatment For Smoking Alcoholics In Outpatients”. Medical Express 1.6 (2014).
  1. Perkins, Kenneth A et al. “Cognitive–behavioral therapy to reduce weight concerns improves smoking cessation outcome in weight-concerned women.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 69.4 (2001): 604-613
  2. Hartzler, Andrea Lisabeth et al. “Prioritizing The Mhealth Design Space: A Mixed-Methods Analysis Of Smokers’ Perspectives”. JMIR mHealth and uHealth 4.3 (2016): e95.
  3. McClure, Jennifer B, Andrea L Hartzler, and Sheryl L Catz. “Design Considerations For Smoking Cessation Apps: Feedback From Nicotine Dependence Treatment Providers And Smokers”. JMIR mHealth uHealth 4.1 (2016): e17.
  4. El-Hilly, A.A., Iqbal, S.S., Ahmed, M., Sherwani, Y., Muntasir, M., Siddiqui, S., Al-Fagih, Z., Usmani, O. and Eisingerich, A.B. (2016) ‘Game on? Smoking cessation through the Gamification of mHealth: A longitudinal qualitative study’, JMIR Serious Games, 4(2), p. e18. doi: 10.2196/games.5678.

Want to partner with us?

We love science, and if you’ve gotten this far, you probably do too. We’re launching an open research programme for scientists who want to use Quit Genius in their research studies. If that sounds like you, get in touch with us to learn more.

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