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Can VR Help Smokers Quit?

Virtual therapy for smokers might be an app and headset away.

VR is being used to help a variety of conditions from pain management to eye disorders, and now a Kickstarter based in Mexico City is looking to help smokers curb the habit.

MindCotine is a crowd-sourced VR program that uses your cell phone, a cardboard headset and immersive mindfulness to retrain your brain to stop smoking.

MindCotine uses exposure therapy, which is a therapy technique that safely introduces users to an item or situation that causes anxiety, to virtually allow the user to experience smoking without actually smoking. This is combined with meditation for 20 minutes everyday and biofeedback, which monitors your physical responses in the body.

“Your heart rate and voice tone will tell us how you are responding to the program, and what kind of content you need next,” said Cristian Waitman the co-creator of MindCotine. “It will also help you understand your body and change your behavior.”

Waitman created the program with his childhood friends who all went to school together in Argentina. He emphasized not only the importance of community in the creation of MindCotine but also in its use.

“Health is built upon community,” Waitman said. “What we really want is to generate a community of 3,000 users that actually care about this problem.”

This isn’t the first time VR has been used to help smokers quit. A study at the University of Quebec in Canada, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking last year, found smokers who regularly play a headset game that involves crushing virtual cigarettes are more likely to quit smoking.

For the estimated 36.5 million adults who smoke in the U.S., the use of VR technology could be the change needed.

MindCotine is still in the fundraising phase, launching May 31st on World No Tobacco Day, with about a month left on the Kickstarter campaign.

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