A new smartphone app that keeps teens from smoking and motivates them to quit the habit has been developed.
The 'Tobacco-Free Teens' app encourages teens to stay away from tobacco in addition to teaching behavioural skills to help them resist pro-tobacco pressures.
"Our app combines education and entertainment with comics and interactive games," said designer Alexander Prokhorov, a professor in the Department of Behavioural Science at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
"It motivates teens to stay away from tobacco and teaches behavioural skills to help them resist pro-tobacco pressures. Such an approach is much more appealing to youth than text-based instructional tools," said Prokhorov.
Prokhorov led the development of the Tobacco-Free Teens app from content largely drawn from a bilingual, on-line tobacco prevention and cessation curriculum targeting middle and high school students around the world.
Equipped with colourful animated teen characters and 'cool' tunes, the app addresses those who have never smoked, those wanting to quit, those having trouble quitting and those not interested in quitting.
The app includes gaming activities that reinforce smoking-cessation tips tailored for the teenage audience.
In one game the user's task is to tap away various temptations to smoke - depicted as objects - that rapidly moves around the smartphone screen.
Another game challenges teens to match two pairs of cards that contain memorable images of smoking consequences including yellow teeth, bad breath and stained fingers.
"Every module of the app was carefully designed with teens in mind," said Prokhorov.
"Most teens are very particular about their appearance and don't realise that smoking can affect their appearance well before they develop cancer," Prokhorov said.
Prokhorov is confident the app will serve as a handy tool to prevent teens from smoking, educate and encourage teen smokers to quit, and prevent relapse among recent quitters.