Pay friends to quit smoking with Pfizer's new digital tool

Stop-smoking apps aren't new, but Pfizer ($PFE) and the American Lung Association's latest enlists friends and family--and their pocketbooks, too. The Quitter's Circle lets smokers invite friends to their quit teams and includes educational support, healthcare provider support and even the ability to crowdsource funds to finance the effort.

A "quit fund" can be built within the app or online, allowing supporters to help with the cost of doctor visits, counseling, treatments, or contribute toward a special quitting celebration at a certain milestone. Pfizer's stop-smoking pill Chantix, though never mentioned by name, could certainly be one of those treatment options.

Support from family, friends and even coworkers can be key to quit efforts. Some 80% of smokers trying to quit called that support very important to their success, according to a study cited by the American Lung Association.

A Pfizer spokesman said the pharma partnered with the association to research the hurdles to quitting smoking and co-developed the app with those findings in mind. Though Pfizer does market Chantix, the spokesman added, the app does not offer information on medications, just encourages people to talk to their doctors or healthcare providers about treatments that might be helpful when trying to quit.

A quit plan has been shown to double the odds of quitting successfully, according to the American Lung Association press release. Help with making that plan seems to be needed; while 85% of smokers worry about their health, only 36% have a plan to change their habits.

"Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature disease and death in the United States, yet we found that only half of smokers had spoken to a doctor about quitting," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, senior medical adviser at the American Lung Association, in the press release.

The app is available for Apple ($APPL) and Android tablets and phones, as well as for the Apple watch. Online support starts at QuittersCircle.com, but includes support on Facebook ($FB) and Twitter ($TWTR).

Chantix has had a bumpy road, most recently having to add warnings about its use with alcohol. That's in addition to a black-box warning the drug already carries about suicide and suicidal thoughts. Pfizer has responded to the FDA's move with a steady stream of studies to try to prove the drug is not at fault. Most recently, the drugmaker rolled out new data showing that Chantix can help jump-start smokers who say they want to quit, but haven't yet made definite plans to do so.

- read the release

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