On national no smoking day, stress is highlighted as the number one reason why consumers relapse into smoking after quitting.

Almost three in 10 people (29%) who have quit, or want to quit list stress as a reason to going back to smoking. Women are more likely than men to list stress as a reason, with 32% highlighting this compared with 27% of men. This may be a reflection of more stressful lifestyles led by women, particularly if they are juggling multiple roles, indeed, according to Mintel’s  Healthy Lifestyles UK January 2013 report only 38% of women take time to unwind and relax at least once a day, compared with 45% of men.

The age group most likely to be impacted by stress are those aged 45-54 (35% compared with 30% of 16-24-year-olds). A Boomerang Generation means that no longer do sons and daughters strike out on their own upon graduating college, and instead come back to living with their parents. It may be the stresses of supporting this generation that is contributing to the stress of those aged 45-54.

Habit and boredom are also listed as reasons people relapse, with 22% listing habit and 16% listing boredom. People in employment or education and those living with young children are most likely to relapse due to habit. It is likely that habit is also a reason why E-cigarettes are popular. The devices allow users to get the sensorial feel of using a cigarette, enabling them to replace their usual smoking habits with ‘vaping’, which is widely considered by smokers to be a safer alternative.

With habit being a key reason people relapse into smoking, breaking the habit is essential to help people quit. Current quit smoking apps monitor the number of days people are smoke-free, provide encouragement and motivation, and show how changes in health are likely to happen with each day a person is smoke-free. However, current apps do not tackle habit. Apps can be designed with daily targets (or games) encouraging people to use their usual ‘smoke breaks’ to do other things. By remaining distracted or focused on other daily tasks, those who are trying to quit can be encouraged to break established habits.

With stress being the leading cause of smoking relapse, there may be opportunities for brands to offer ‘after care’ to help people manage their stress and stay off smoking. Brands could couple with travel agents or spas to offer discounts towards holidays or spa treatments for people who successfully quit smoking for a certain amount of time. Alternatively, brands could offer stress management courses to help people learn new ways to manage their stress rather than turning to a cigarette, or even phone apps that suggest things to do when feeling stressed to distract people from smoking could help.

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