Tapping into a new app to reduce smoking rates

36 young people take up smoking every day.   PIC: IAN RUTHERFORD/TSPL.
36 young people take up smoking every day. PIC: IAN RUTHERFORD/TSPL.

Health bosses are tapping into smart phones to try and cut smoking rates in Fife.

They are hoping that a new app will help to reduce tobacco-related deaths and cut the Kingdom’s £10.1 million lung disease bill.

The Mapmysmoke app works by sending smokers who want to quit supportive messages on their mobile to discourage them from lighting up if it detects they are in a location where they are likely to want a cigarette.

The move follows successful trials last year and there are plans to roll the system out more widely to try and improve Fife’s bad smoking record.

According to the Fife Department of Public Health annual report, published in December 2017, more than 9000 hospital admissions in the Kingdom every year are a result of tobacco.

It reveals that smoking rates in Fife are the third highest in Scotland with tobacco responsible for 700 deaths every year.

The report also shows smoking among 15-year-olds is the highest in the country and 35 per cent of pregnant women from the most disadvantaged areas smoke at the time of their pregnancy booking.

Dr Margaret Hannah, director of public health, revealed that lung cancer is the region’s most common cause of death with 370 Fifers diagnosed with the disease each year.

While a further 3400 people annually are diagnoses with chronic lung disease. The report showed NHS Fife spends an estimated £3.4m a year on treating lung cancer and £7.1m on chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

In the report, Dr Hannah said: “Smoking is the most important preventable cause of ill-health in Scotland, shown to cause almost 10,000 deaths a year and linked to many of the diseases with the most burden in Scotland including cancer, COPD and heart disease.

“Each year 700 people die of smoking-related diseases in Fife, which comprises 23 per cent of all deaths. Although Fife has made good progress in recent years in reducing smoking in adults, expectant mothers and young people, we are not performing so well compared to Scotland and other health board areas.”

She continued: “Currently 58 per cent of quits achieved through the local stop smoking service are in areas

of high deprivation. The health promotion service hopes to increase this proportion further and achieve the ambitious target of 799 successful quits in the 40 per cent most disadvantaged areas of Fife, by introducing a mobile service and by piloting a stop smoking app developed with St. Andrews University.”

The app was initially piloted in August last year when smokers at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy were asked to log each time they wanted a cigarette over a two week period.

The feedback from participants was that they felt the app made them feel more aware of their smoking and helped them to resist cravings once they had quit. Dr Hannah said new ways of marketing the app to a wider audience are now being investigated.