Crushing cigarettes in a virtual reality environment reduces tobacco addiction

New Rochelle 27 October 2009Smokers who crushed computer-simulated cigarettes as part of a psycho-social treatment programme in a virtual reality environment had significantly reduced nicotine dependence and higher rates of tobacco abstinence than smokers participating in the same programme who grasped a computer-simulated ball, according to a study described in the current issue of CyberPsychology and Behavior, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert Inc.


Benoit Girard, MD, Vincent Turcotte, and Bruno Girard, MBA, from the GRAP Occupational Psychology Clinic in Québec, Canada, and Stéphane Bouchard, PhD, from the University of Québec in Gatineau, randomly assigned 91 smokers enrolled in a 12-week anti-smoking support programme to one of two treatment groups. In a computer-generated virtual reality environment, one group simulated crushing virtual cigarettes, while the other group grasped virtual balls during 4 weekly sessions. The authors document the results in the article "Crushing Virtual Cigarettes Reduces Tobacco Addiction and Treatment Discontinuation".

The findings demonstrate a statistically significant reduction in nicotine addiction among the smokers in the cigarette-crushing group versus those in the ball-grasping group. Also, at week 12 of the programme, the smoking abstinence rate was significantly higher for the cigarette-crushing group (15 percent) compared to the ball-grasping group (2 percent).

Other notable findings include the following: smokers who crushed virtual cigarettes tended to stay in the treatment programme longer - average time to drop-out > 8 weeks - than the ball-grasping group - < 6 weeks. At the 6-month follow-up, 39 percent of the cigarette crushers reported not smoking during the previous week, compared to 20 percent of the ball graspers.

"It is important to note that this study increased treatment retention. All too often individuals drop out of treatment prior to completion. It will be interesting now to go further and compare this to other popular treatments such as the nicotine patch", stated Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of CyberPsychology and Behavior, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, California.

CyberPsychology and Behavior is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and on-line that explores the psychological and social issues surrounding the Internet and interactive technologies.

Mary Ann Liebert Inc. is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Telemedicine and e-Health and Journal of Women's Health. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide.

The article "Crushing Virtual Cigarettes Reduces Tobacco Addiction and Treatment Discontinuation" is available free on-line at the CyberPsychology and Behavior journal website.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert Inc./Genetic Engineering News

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