13th January, 2020

The Smoke Free Plus app is a digital innovation developed by former smoker and now doctor, David Crane, which is available to buy for the first time in over 1,400 Boots stores across the UK and on boots.com. Originally developed as a part time project by Dr Crane while studying for his MSc in psychology and while struggling to quit smoking, Smoke Free has now experienced over 4 million downloads and has a very high average user rating of 4.7 out of 5.

Most smokers who attempted to quit on their own at New Year will probably have lapsed by now. Smoke Free Plus is a new way to help them succeed. Smoking is the largest cause of preventable illness and death in the UK. Each year smoking is responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths and 500,000 hospitalisations, with millions more people suffering debilitating and ongoing ill health. A highly cited report found around 65 percent of smokers who attempted to quit on their own relapse during the first week, meaning most people who gave up smoking without help at New Year will probably be back smoking already.

Helping people stop smoking is a public health priority and the Government has set a goal for a smoke free generation, defined as reducing smoking prevalence to 5 percent of the population. Given that smoking prevalence is currently 15 percent, this means helping an additional five million UK smokers to quit. Such an ambitious target can only be reached with new initiatives, such as those provided by Smoke Free.

Dr Crane said: “Stopping smoking is hard. I know, I’ve failed at it often enough. What really makes the difference is support, most people need help to stay quit. The problem is that until now it’s been hard to get this help to people. Which is why our announcement today is so exciting, because our partnership with Boots makes stop smoking support more accessible than it has ever been before. Lots of people have helped a small start-up like us be successful, but we would like to send a big thank you to the team at the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator Programme, who have supported us since 2018.”

Laura Gooday, Senior Buying Manager of Positive Healthcare at Boots UK, said: “Millions of people consider stopping smoking at this time of the year and we want to do all we can to help them be successful. We are delighted to partner with Smoke Free. For the first time people can purchase this fantastic behaviour change app in store or online.”

Sara Nelson, Programme Director of DigitalHealth.London Accelerator Programme said: “We are extremely proud of David and his team at Smoke Free for all they have achieved in supporting people to give up smoking. Digital technology has huge potential to help people take greater control of their own health. The Smoke Free app has been proven to work and empower people to stop smoking. Having supported Smoke Free since they were on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme, we are delighted to see the company grow and today have the potential to make a national impact on the millions of people who want to give up smoking this New Year.”

Smoke Free Plus follows NICE guidance on stopping smoking and includes over 30 different behaviour change techniques. Users are encouraged to stay quit by seeing progress in their time smoke free, money saved, health improvements made, and more. They can also use the missions – daily tasks designed to help people stay quit. A large randomised control trial found that participants who received the app and missions were twice as likely to quit successfully as participants who used the app alone. A second randomised control trial found that an automated quit coach increased quit rates even further.

Smoke Free Plus adds to the tried-and-tested success of Smoke Free with features exclusive to Boots that are likely to help more people to quit.

The most exciting new feature is expert-led stop smoking clinics that will be held in the app twice-daily Monday to Friday. There will be five clinic rooms, one for each of the areas science says quitters most often struggle with: managing craving and withdrawal, being around other smokers, handling difficult situations, choosing medication and responding to lapse. Stop smoking experts trained by the world-renowned National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training will guide users through any challenge they face and cheer every success they have.

A key benefit of clinics is peer-support. Getting advice and encouragement from people going through the same thing can be enormously helpful. Combining peer support with expert advice and adding the already proven features of Smoke Free, makes Smoke Free Plus a highly unique and very effective way to stop smoking.

Notes to Editors:

• About Boots: Boots UK (boots.com), the UK’s largest pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, is part of the Retail Pharmacy International Division of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Nasdaq: WBA), the first global pharmacy‐led, health and wellbeing enterprise. With 2,465* stores in the UK, its purpose is to champion everyone’s right to feel good. Boots UK is committed to providing exceptional customer and patient care, be the first choice for pharmacy and healthcare and offer innovative ‘only at Boots’ exclusive products such as No7, a leading UK skincare brand, Soap and Glory and Liz Earle. Created 170 years ago, the Boots brand is still at the heart of the communities it serves.
• Around 65 percent of smokers who attempted to quit on their own relapse during the first week (Hughes, J. R., Keely, J., & Naud, S. (2004). Shape of the relapse curve and long‐term abstinence among untreated smokers. Addiction, 99(1), 29-38).
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00540.x
• For more information about the app visit: smokefreeapp.com/boots/
• The cost of the app is £4.99 initial purchase via Boots, then recurring £9.99 p/m charge from Smoke Free
• There are currently an estimated 7 million smokers in the UK (ONS)
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2018
100k deaths in UK annually, many more debilitating illnesses diagnosed and suffered from, over 500k hospital admissions (ONS)
£12bn annual costs – £2.5bn NHS, £5.3bn lost productivity, £4.1bn wider society
• If the Government is to achieve its goal of a smoke free generation by 2022 it needs initiatives such as this
• Crane D, Ubhi HK, Brown J and West R. Relative effectiveness of a full versus reduced version of the ‘Smoke Free’ mobile application for smoking cessation: an exploratory randomised controlled trial [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]. F1000Research 2019, 7:1524 (https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.16148.2)

• Perski, O., Crane, D., Beard, E., & Brown, J. (2019). Does the addition of a supportive chatbot promote user engagement with a smoking cessation app? An experimental study. DIGITAL HEALTH. https://doi.org/10.1177/2055207619880676
• DigitalHealth.London Accelerator a partnership between London’s three Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs); the Health Innovation Network, Imperial College Health Partners, UCLPartners as well as MedCity, and CW+. It is supported by the Mayor of London.
• The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is receiving funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding

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