Study says quit-smoking apps should be tailored for LGBTQ youth

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mobile apps designed to help people quit- smoking miss the mark on young adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) according to a study at The University of Waterloo. Research from the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact (Propel) at Waterloo suggests targeted mobile apps designed specifically for this youth demographic could help reduce the high smoking rate.

The study was published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance and found that smoking cessation apps for the general public do not meet the unique needs of LGBTQ community. Currently there are no smoking cessation apps tailored to this demographic.

“Mobile health interventions are a modern and increasingly popular platform for smoking cessation,” said Bruce Baskerville, senior scientist at Propel.  “Research shows that for the general population mobile phone-based interventions are 1.6 times more effective than quitting on one’s own.  We are hearing from the LGBTQ community that a tailored app could better help to reduce smoking rates.”

Youth and young adults who identify as LGBTQ have significantly higher smoking rates than their heterosexual peers.  More than 20 per cent of LGBTQ high school students report smoking daily – twice the number of heterosexual students. Among young adults aged 18 to 24, more than 34 per cent of homo- and bisexuals smoke, compared to 23 per cent of heterosexuals.

“LGBTQ youth and young adults have specific needs and challenges that the straight population do not experience and thus, interventions need to be tailored to address these specific challenges,” said Baskerville.

LGBTQ youth and young adults report experiencing greater levels of discrimination, harassment, and depression than straight individuals.  Smoking is often used as a coping mechanism. A tailored smoking cessation app could provide greater accessibility to evidence-based help through personalization that takes into account diversity and opportunities to connect with other individuals in the community.

“Mobile interventions are relatively new to the smoking cessation scene, but in many ways, they hold unparalleled potential to help curb the tobacco epidemic,” said Baskerville.

Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in Canada. Each year 37,000 Canadians die from a tobacco-related disease.  The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact conducts research to reduce preventable cancers and chronic diseases in Canada.

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