Scientists team up to cut smoking

Updated: 2016-04-19 11:26

By Londa Deng in Seattle(China Daily)

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 Scientists team up to cut smoking

China's anti-smoking ambassador Peng Liyuan and Bill Gates attend an anti-smoking campaign in Beijing in this file photo taken in 2014. LOU LINWEI / For China Daily

Cheng's research interest is in prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, strengthening the health system, big data and healthcare, aging health, China health development aid and its role in improving global public health. Recently he turned his attention to the smoking problem in China.

"I had been looking worldwide for good ways to solve the problem until I found Bricker's amazing work," Cheng said.

Cheng reached out to Bricker by e-mail, then Skype. In January, Bricker traveled to Beijing. Last week, Cheng came to Seattle.

Now Bricker and Cheng are working to create a new way to help China's 316 million smokers quit. They are working to develop Smart Quit China, a mobile app that could make smoking cessation widely available. Last week, they received data on the content of 66 existing stop-smoking apps available for smart phones in China.

About the partnership, Cheng said it was "love at first sight".

In addition to noting the good chemistry between them, Bricker said that Cheng has a passion and vision to reduce the smoking rate in China, and has demonstrated his commitment through quality research. "Plus, Cheng is a very good scientist who has quality mythological skills and a can-do attitude. It is not easy to find a right partner and I am very lucky." Bricker told China Daily.

Like the US app, the Chinese version will focus on Bricker's paradigm, called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, which uses an innovative method that provides tailored exercises and ongoing support messages to help people notice and accept smoking urges instead of trying to suppress them.

It could take five to six years to develop the SmartQuit China app, Cheng said. Both are very confident that with enough funding their project will succeed.

Neither Cheng nor Bricker is paid extra for work on the project. “We want to make the investment because we really want to make impact on real people,” Bricker said.

Smoking affects nearly 27.7 percent of China’s adult population. According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Chinese smokers increased by 15 million in the past five years, making the total number of smokers 316 million by the end of 2015.

Peng spearheaded efforts that led to last year’s law requiring all indoor public places in the capital city of Beijing to be smoke-free, a move that affects more than 20 million people.

"Efforts like this reduced the health risks of secondhand smoke. However, we need measures to help individual smokers." Cheng said.

Cheng led a research seminar for preparing the Smart Quit China research project with about 14 scientists from China leading institutes such as Tsinghua University and world organizations in January.

He said it’s very important to understand the need of the app users in China through surveys and a pilot study.

“The possibilities of using mobile technology for smoke cessation are huge. This is just beginning, the best yet to come,” Bricker said.


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