The acceptability of and real time engagement with a context-aware smartphone smoking cessation app (Q Sense)

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Aims: We have developed a smartphone app (Q Sense) that uses real time logging to learn about the location and context of smoking behaviour leading up to a smoker’s quit date. Then, during their quit attempt, when the smoker enters or dwells in an identified smoking location (‘geofence’), the app triggers support messages, tailored to context data. We assessed the app’s acceptability among smokers and their speed of response to geofence-triggered support messages.

Design/Setting/Participants/Measurements: Smokers (N=43) were recruited through stop smoking services and online, and invited to use Q Sense pre and 4-weeks post quit-date. Data from three sources were analysed: the app, before and after surveys, and one-to-one interviews (n=9), analysed thematically.

Findings: Four participants withdrew. Of those followed up (30/39), three-quarters said they would use the app again. Only 13% felt the app was not easy to use, but almost half (47%) felt it was not always convenient to record smoking in real time, particularly when working and socialising. Few participants (13%) felt the messages inadvertently reminded them about smoking and 23% had some concerns about data privacy. Interviews indicated that participants considered the app a ‘friend’ or a convenient alternative to in-person support. Improvement suggestions included increased support duration and tailoring. 70% of eligible participants received geofence-triggered support messages and viewed messages were seen within a median of 4.5 minutes, significantly quicker than for routine daily messages (p<0.001).

Conclusion: Most participants considered the context-aware app to be acceptable and demonstrated relatively rapid engagement with context-triggered support.


Miss Sarah Hopewell 1 Dr Neal Lathia 2 Mr Rik Schalbroeck 1 Dr Chloë Brown 2 Professor Cecilia Mascolo 2 Dr Andy McEwen 3 and Professor Stephen Sutton 1 1 Behavioural Science Group, University of Cambridge, Forvie Site, Cambridge, CB2 0SR, UK 2 Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, William Gates Building, Cambridge, CB3 0FD 3 Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London, WC1E 6BT and the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training , 1-6 Yarmouth Place, London, W1J 7BU

Conflicts of interest:

Funding Sources: Medical Research Council, Society for the Study of Addiction

No conflict of interest


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Dr Felix Naughton