According to a new study, stomping out one’s cigarettes in a virtual world significantly ups one’s odds of quitting in the real world. The researchers say that the virtual program helped smokers quit and abstain over the following months more successfully than controls.
After the 12 weeks had elapsed, 15% of the cigarette squashers had quit smoking, versus just 2% of the ball graspers. After six months, these numbers rose to 39% and 20%, respectively.
Researchers from the GRAP Occupational Psychology Clinic and the University of Quebec tweaked a three−dimensional video game to create a virtual world. Half of the study’s participants (46), who served as the treatment group, squashed cigarettes in this virtual world. Another group of 45 smokers grasped a virtual ball instead, thus serving as a control group. The treatment lasted for 12 weeks, with four weekly sessions.
After the 12 weeks had elapsed, 15% of the cigarette squashers had quit smoking, versus just 2% of the ball graspers. After six months, these numbers rose to 39% and 20%, respectively. The cigarette squashers also stayed in the program longer than the control group, which the journal’s editor in chief Brenda Wiederhold says is noteworthy; she also suggests that a next step may be to compare the study’s treatment method to others currently on the market, like the patch.
In a related study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh say that switching to light cigarettes decreases one’s odds of quitting considerably. The research, published in Tobacco Control, found that people who switched to light cigarettes were 46% less likely to quit smoking than those who smoked regular cigarettes.
Study author Hilary Tindle suggests that one possible reason for this finding is that light cigarettes may seem less dangerous to the smoker: "Prior research suggests that switching may resolve smokers' cognitive dissonance about smoking — something along the lines of, 'Well, since I'm smoking a [supposedly] healthier cigarette, I really don't have to worry about lung cancer, heart disease, impotence, wrinkles, early death [fill in the blank] because my health is not at risk.' This type of rationale may keep more health−conscious smokers smoking."