Launched in 2011 by the European Commission to help 24-35 year olds across Europe quit smoking, and successfully continued in 2012 and 2013, the 2015 edition of the ‘Ex-Smokers are Unstoppable’ campaign is more determined than ever to help young people abandon tobacco and promote the many benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle. Better health and well-being, more disposable income and ultimately a better quality of life await those who decide to quit smoking. In addition to the gain in quality-adjusted life years for former smokers, smoking cessation also eases the financial burden on Europe’s healthcare systems and economies. The total cost of smoking to EU society was estimated at €544 billion in 2009.
Speaking about why the fight against tobacco is such an important one for the European Commission, Health and Food Safety Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said: “Nearly 700,000 people die from tobacco-related causes every year in the EU. More people die from cigarettes than from car accidents, crime and drug abuse put together. That is why I am committed to boosting EU action to reduce tobacco-related illness across the EU through legislation, the awareness raising campaign ‘Ex-smokers are Unstoppable’, and cooperation with Member States, civil society and other international partners.”
iCoach: the digital support system that challenges users
The latest campaign kicks off with the launch of the improved iCoach, the digital health coach available both online and as a mobile app for Apple and Android devices in the 23 languages of the 28 EU countries. iCoach is free and easily accessible to all who wish to use it.
iCoach 2015 offers a more contemporary look and feel and user-friendly navigation as well as additional user-centric functions, in particular a challenger function. The tool continues to guide users through five progressive phases to quit smoking but now incorporates several personal, phase-specific challenges.
- Keep track of how many cigarettes you smoke a day as you may be underestimating your habit (for smokers in Phase 2)
- Postpone the “nicest” cigarette of the day 10 times for 10 minutes and then for 20 minutes (for smokers in Phase 3)
- Leave your cigarettes at home when you need to run a short errand (for smokers in Phase 4)
These challenges enable users to set themselves small, attainable goals which once achieved, encourages them to take on further challenges and gain control over their habit.
“Our research of different behavioural change models led us to the conclusion that in order to optimise conversion rates, we needed to break down the journey to a smoke-free lifestyle into small steps with intermediary, achievable goals. Focusing directly on the end goal for someone who is barely thinking about quitting smoking can be unsurmountable,” explains Steven De Peuter of BrandNewHealth, the campaign partner that developed the iCoach platform. “For example, smokers in that ‘pre-contemplation’ phase, who account for 3% of current registered users, are notoriously difficult to reach but remain a key target of the campaign. We are very hopeful that the new challenges will give them an added incentive to move to the next phase.”
iCoach will recognise successfully completed challenges with rewarding messages. These messages of encouragement, ‘real time’ updates about the number of registered iCoach users in each phase per country, the total number of challenges completed and the chances of progressing to the next phase should help motivate iCoach users and make them feel part of a strong community. iCoach users will be invited to share challenges, achievements and personal successes on social media reinforcing the emotive dimension of the campaign which has been proven to increase the impact of anti-tobacco campaigns across all socio-economic groups.
Set a challenge for World No Tobacco Day
Every year on May 31st, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners organise WNTD to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco on health and to reduce tobacco consumption around the world. Why not join iCoach today and set your first challenge for WNTD?
For more information please visit: www.exsmokers.eu
The Public Health Portal of the European Union: http://health.europa.eu
The Public Health website of the European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/policy/index_en.htm
 A study on liability and the health costs of smoking prepared for the European Commission. Updated final report April 2012: http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/docs/tobacco_liability_final_en.pdf
 Tobacco and inequities. World Health Organisation, 2014