Habit hacker: La Jollan develops an app to help vapers quit
Tired of his addiction to vaping, a local man has developed an app that he says can help others kick the habit of using e-cigarettes.
Jonathan Kopp, a 2018 graduate of La Jolla High School, said: “Back in high school, I got extremely hooked on [e-cigarettes]. Everyone, all my friends were doing it. Fast forward a few years and now I’m going to college. It gets expensive; I can’t afford it. And most importantly, it’s affecting my health and my friends’ health.”
Kopp, currently in school in San Francisco for software engineering, developed and launched the app Quit Vaping in October. “My goal was to help myself quit, and my friends. From there, I’ve been working nonstop on the app. It feels amazing to be able to help people struggling with the same thing I was.”
Quit Vaping has more than 70,000 users and a 4.9 rating out of 5 among more than 900 reviews in the United States on the Apple app store.
Kopp said it took him about a month to quit vaping with his app. However, he cautioned that “people don’t understand quitting is a lifelong journey,” saying there are times he craves his former vape pen.
Though the composition of the vapor in an e-cigarette may vary, it usually contains nicotine, flavoring and other additives. “The nicotine in e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is addictive,” according to the U.S. surgeon general’s office.
For Kopp, quitting is “all a mind-set,” he said. “[I’m] just looking to the future and knowing the benefits” of quitting.
He’s enjoyed better health, he said. “I’m a big athlete,” he said, adding that he enjoys surfing and working out. “My energy levels, being able to breathe, was a challenge toward the end of my addiction.”
Kopp said he also has more disposable income since he’s no longer spending $40 weekly on his vaping habit.
The Quit Vaping app works, Kopp said, through several features. “The biggest feature is the ‘buddy system,’ where users team together to quit.”
The app “almost gamifies the whole aspect of addiction and quitting,” he said. “What happens is, you see your friends’ quit time, how long they’ve been clean and the reason why they quit,” which he believes motivates users “to not let your friends down.”
Other features include the “community,” where users of the app share their stories and tips. “It makes you feel like you’re not alone in this whole journey,” Kopp said.
The app also provides users with statistics, such as how much money they’ve saved since quitting and information about the benefits of quitting for their lungs, brain and heart.
“It’s tough to quit,” Kopp said, “but in the long run your body’s going to thank you.”
A proposed study of Quit Vaping by Annie Asher, a master of behavioral health student at Tulane University, determined that the app meets more of the U.S. Public Health Service “clinical practice guidelines for treating tobacco use and dependence” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine than almost any of the current smoking cessation applications on the market.
The app, Asher stated in her paper, has “an intervention that is specific to vaping … enhances motivation by providing a cost-benefit analysis and goals to meet … assists in developing a quit plan … advises every user to quit and refers to a recommended treatment … recommends counseling and medication through the addiction specialist and arranges follow-ups, and asks for tobacco status.”
Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander, an associate professor of medicine in the UC San Diego Division of Pulmonary Critical Care & Sleep, told the Light that “this is a really, really important area. We do not have established tools to help people quit vaping, especially [for] adolescents and young adults.”
Crotty Alexander said “9 percent of the total adult U.S. population vape and 16 to 28 percent of teenagers and young adults vape.”
“Since nicotine is in the top three most addictive substances of all time, we assume that [more than] 90 percent of [vapers] are addicted,” she said.
“I am really pleased that [Kopp] has had the initiative and follow-through to create and launch this app,” Crotty Alexander said.
But she cautioned against labeling the app “a proven therapy for e-cigarette cessation. Even stopping [vaping] for one month does not mean that the person is cured of their nicotine addiction.”
She recommended that Kopp reach out to “smoking cessation experts to ensure that he is accurately reporting his numbers, and tracking true quitters as well as those who resume vaping, and those who at least are able to cut down on vaping.”
Asher recommended further testing of “the efficacy of Quit Vaping, because it will help to promote [mobile health apps] that meet the guidelines for treating tobacco use and dependence and encourage other similar apps to do so.”
Kopp said he is pursuing a National Science Foundation grant to do a large case study.
Quit Vaping is free to download and use, but a subscription plan is available for purchase that includes a coach to guide users virtually through the quitting process, a nicotine tracker and notifications to help build a routine not centered around vaping or smoking, Kopp said.
Quit Vaping is available at bit.ly/quitvapingapp. ◆
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