Facebook apps for smoking cessation: A review of content and adherence to evidence-based guidelines
Journal of Medical Internet Research
Volume 16, Issue 9
Article number e205
Background: Facebook is the most popular social network site, with over 1 billion users globally. There are millions of apps available within Facebook, many of which address health and health behavior change. Facebook may represent a promising channel to reach smokers with cessation interventions via apps. To date, there have been no published reports about Facebook apps for smoking cessation.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to review the features and functionality of Facebook apps for smoking cessation and to determine the extent to which they adhere to evidence-based guidelines for tobacco dependence treatment.
Methods: In August 2013, we searched Facebook and three top Internet search engines using smoking cessation keywords to identify relevant Facebook apps. Resultant apps were screened for eligibility (smoking cessation-related, English language, and functioning). Eligible apps were reviewed by 2 independent coders using a standardized coding scheme. Coding included content features (interactive, informational, and social) and adherence to an established 20-item index (possible score 0-40) derived from the US Public Health Service’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence.
Results: We screened 22 apps for eligibility; of these, 12 underwent full coding. Only 9 apps were available on Facebook. Facebook apps fell into three broad categories: public pledge to quit (n=3), quit-date–based calculator/tracker (n=4), or a multicomponent quit smoking program (n=2). All apps incorporated interactive, informational, and social features except for two quit-date–based calculator/trackers apps (lacked informational component). All apps allowed app-related posting within Facebook (ie, on self/other Facebook profile), and four had a within-app “community” feature to enable app users to communicate with each other. Adherence index summary scores among Facebook apps were low overall (mean 15.1, SD 7.8, range 7-30), with multicomponent apps scoring the highest.
Conclusions: There are few smoking cessation apps available within Facebook. Among those available, adherence to cessation treatment guidelines was low. Smoking cessation interventions provided via the Facebook platform are a unique and as yet untapped treatment strategy that can harness existing social support and social networks for quitting. Research is needed to examine whether apps that adhere to clinical practice guidelines for tobacco dependence treatment are more effective in promoting cessation than those that do not.
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Jacobs, M.A., Cobb, C.O., Abroms, L., Graham, A.L. (2014). Facebook apps for smoking cessation: A review of content and adherence to evidence-based guidelines. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(9): e205