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March 13, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Need Help Quitting Smoking? This App Can Help

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

I've blogged it before and I'll blog it again: I hate smoking. I see the negative impacts of smoking day in and day out - ear infections in kids exposed to second hand smoke, heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, and many more completely preventable illnesses. I challenge people; I gently prod them; and I employ any tactic that I think will help people quit smoking. 

On one occasion, a young, ambivalent smoker with another respiratory infection asked me if he should get a chest x-ray. "Not a bad idea," I replied. "Probably should make sure there is no lung cancer," I thought aloud. I walked him to the x-ray suite down the hall in silence. I left him to contemplate his own mortality a little longer than I needed, looking over his x-ray which was just fine. 

Sometimes, a glimpse of the future can cut through the equivocation and rationalization when it comes to smoking, delivering that "the time is now" epiphany. One such means of attaining this glimpse came to my attention the other day, and I think it is brilliant.

Background

Have you ever noticed that smokers look older than they actually are? This is because chronic nicotine exposure causes a breakdown of collagen fibers. These fibers are plentiful under the skin, giving it that rubbery, full consistency. Sometimes collagen is even injected to enhance this effect cosmetically (think Angelina Jolie). When collagen breaks down, elasticity breaks down. Bags develop under the eyes and the skin becomes wrinkly.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the smoker after all?

A small Australian study was performed on 160 smokers aged 18-30 utilizing photo enhancing software by Aprilage. All participants completed questionnaires assessing potential to quit smoking and were divided equally. Half were shown photos of themselves at 55 as smokers vs. non-smokers. They were also given a copy of the photos to bring home. All participants were contacted six months later. In the control group (no photo), five of the 80 reported successfully quitting the habit. In the test group (photo), 22 of the 80 reported that they were non-smokers. 

While the study was small and relied on self-reporting, there just might be something to this tactic. Common to most detrimental habits, those entrapped lull themselves into a false sense of "it won't happen to me" security. And let's face it, we all have some semblance of vanity. This software cuts right through these human tendencies toward the sudden epiphany that smoking will bring harm and undesirable effects on the body. Plus, the program is available for free by visiting a website, breaking through the financial barriers often faced with non-"cold turkey" methods of smoking cessation.

My Take?

Smoking stinks, and it wrinkles the skin, among other things. Thank you, Aprilage, for developing this potentially successful tool in helping people recognize one of the inevitable effects of continued smoking. I encourage you to visit this site for yourself or for any loved ones who smoke.

Again, the website can be found at: http://www.ageme.com/

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