Tailoring of a smartphone smoking cessation app (kick.it) for serious mental illness populations: Qualitative study

Pauline Klein, Sharon Lawn, George Tsourtos, Joep van Agteren

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Background: Smoking rates of Australians with severe mental illness (SMI) are disproportionately higher than the general population. Despite the rapid growth in mobile health (mHealth) apps, limited evidence exists to inform their design for SMI populations.

Objective: This study aimed to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and utility of adapting a novel smoking cessation app (Kick.it) to assist smokers with SMI to prevent smoking relapse and quit.

Methods: Using co-design, two in-depth interviews with 12 adult smokers and ex-smokers with SMI were conducted in this qualitative study. Stage 1 interviews explored participants’ smoking-related experiences and perceptions of social support for smoking cessation, informed the development of the stage 2 interview schedule, and provided context for participants’ responses to the second interview. Stage 2 interviews explored participants’ perceptions of the feasibility, utility, and acceptability of the app features for SMI populations.

Results: People with SMI perceived mHealth interventions to support their quit smoking attempts as feasible, acceptable, and useful. Key emerging themes included personalization of the app to users’ psychosocial needs, a caring app to mediate self-esteem and self-efficacy, an app that normalizes smoking relapse and multiple quit attempts, a strong focus on user experience to improve usability, and a social network to enhance social support for smoking cessation.

Conclusions: This study gained an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of smoking and quitting among people with SMI and their perception of the Kick.it app features to help inform the tailoring of the app. Specific program tailoring is required to assist them in navigating the complex interactions between mental illness and smoking in relation to their psychosocial well-being and capacity to quit. This study describes the adaptations required for the Kick.it app to meet the specific needs and preferences of people with SMI. Results of this study will guide the tailoring of the Kick.it app for SMI populations. The study findings can also inform a co-design process for the future development and design of smoking cessation apps for SMI populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14023
Number of pages15
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2019


  • Mental health
  • MHealth
  • Public health
  • Smoking cessation
  • Technology
  • Tobacco


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