Behavior Change Techniques in Popular Mobile Apps for Smoking Cessation in France: Content Analysis

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2021 May 13;9(5):e26082. doi: 10.2196/26082.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: The mobile app market differs from country to country, and to date, no previous review of the content quality of smoking cessation apps has been conducted in France.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to examine the general quality of the most popular smoking cessation apps in France and also determine the degree to which apps adhere to established behavioral and cognitive techniques (BCTs) proven effective in clinical practice.

METHODS: A systematic research of smoking cessation apps was conducted in both the Google Play Store and Apple Store in the French market. The general quality of popular apps was rated with the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS), and the therapeutic quality was assessed with the ratio of adherence of the behavior change technique taxonomy for smoking cessation treatment.

RESULTS: A total of 14 mobile apps met all the inclusion criteria of the content analysis. The interrater reliability varied from “substantial” (0.79) to “almost perfect” (0.9) for the two measures. The mean MARS score was 3.5 out of 5 (median 3.6, IQR 0.6 [3.2-3.8]). The findings suggest that popular apps focus primarily on the functionality dimension of the MARS scale (4.2/5). The mean number of BCTs was 22, with a large difference between apps (minimum 4, maximum 38). At least half of the apps addressed motivation (8.8/14, 63%) and advised on using behavioral skills in order to quit smoking or stay a nonsmoker (8.7/14, 62%). However, only a handful of apps gathered important information (5.9/14, 42%) in order to deliver proper advice regarding the use of approved medication or the implementation of behavioral techniques (4.3/14, 31%). The mean MARS score was positively correlated with the price (r=0.70, P=.007) and the number of BCTs used (r=0.67, P=.01). User rating was not correlated with any quality scale (P=.67).

CONCLUSIONS: The content quality of popular smoking cessation apps in France varied by app type and price. Most popular apps propose in general good quality content but lack implementation of evidence-based BCTs associated with effectiveness on smoking cessation treatment. Further research is needed to evaluate the improvement in the content quality of smoking cessation apps in France.

PMID:33983130 | DOI:10.2196/26082

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