Using Social Media to Quit Smoking: A Smartphone Application for Smoking Cessation

Rin Gomura Elkan
Siobhan Bulfin


Interventions which integrates mobile phone health services (mHealth) and social influence have been found to be both effective and well liked by users. However, a review of 34 health behaviour interventions utilizing mobile text messaging by Buhi et al.(2012) identified a gap in youth-focused mHealth interventions; the demographic with the highest smartphone ownership. Our presentation focuses on the findings from the smartphone application (app), GoalPost (, which utilizes social influence, persuasive technologies and expert advice to aid smoking cessation.

GoalPost was developed in partnership with Quitline New Zealand and New Zealand Smokefree (a branch of New Zealand’s Health Sponsorship Council), in consultation with the North American Quit Consortium and the British Journal of Tobacco Cessation.

The app is designed as a 12 week “game” to maximize user engagement. GoalPost addresses the user’s intrinsic motivators by helping to identify the reasons behind why they smoke and why they want to quit. Users can also track the money spent on cigarette purchases. Support is provided by the online peer community and expert smoking cessation counselling. Friends and family can also become involved by using the app as the “support crew”.

GoalPost has 7,000 users to date, with 1,890 (27%) having completed the 12 week program. Of those who have completed the program, 1,610 (85%) remain smoke free. The average user is 21 years old. GoalPost is predominantly used in conjunction with either NRT, Champix, or other offline treatment. The current average quit rates for the North American Quit Consortium and New Zealand Quitline (highest cessation rate of all Quitlines globally) are 4% and 12%, respectively.

Our findings indicate the importance of peer support in influencing behavior change, especially when accessibility and convenience are increased by mobile technology. The results will be discussed in the context of user insights and engagement rates.

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