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Smoking puts you out of the game


Tapio Tuomi

Specialist, Systems, The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra


I am a 51-year-old Finnish man, who had been smoking since my national service – at least one pack a day, two at most. At school, it was made very clear to us that smoking was bad for you. However, endlessly repeating this message in the same form made it seem like propaganda – it bored everyone. Defiance was the sole response; in one ear and out the other. At around the age of 30, I tried nicotine patches and gum. This did not help, because my attitude towards them was about the same as towards any advertised product – I did not consider them a lifestyle change.

Many people found it odd that, when I was almost 50, I became excited about Farmville and Foursquare.

 Back then, I did not analyse why this had happened. Only recently, as part of my job, have I followed the discussion on the opportunities represented by gamification in healthcare. The principles applied in games, and how they take advantage of human nature when getting me hooked on them, has begun to dawn on me. This raises the question of why games are not exploited in areas of life outside leisure activities?

Last year, I discussed quitting cigarettes with my wife on several occasions. The most important issue was that if we were going to do this, we would do it together. But why now and why this late? I cannot give a specific reason; it just happened. At least quitting was well planned, since Champix pills had been gathering dust on the hall table for almost a year. The first step was between Christmas and New Year, when my wife took her first pill. Being a gentleman, I stepped back and observed the effects of the medication. Less than a month later, I came on board the project.

I had the following tools at my disposal: medication for treating nicotine addiction; my wife as a peer group; Facebook for attracting more extensive social support and encouragement; and MyLastCigarette app for scientific follow-up of my progress. I particularly like the number of unsmoked cigarettes, with its 4 decimal points!

Now I feel like a winner. I feel that I have identified the ingredients for quitting, used them correctly, received encouragement and that there are people who care about me. These factors are enough to keep me off cigarettes!

However, I’ve also wondered why I needed to discover all of those ingredients, and turn them into the required package, by myself? Couldn’t these be gathered together somewhere, for example, as a game or app called the Rise and Fall of Fags?

Sitra’s Gesundheit 2013 health game competition offers an opportunity to help our fellow citizens improve their well-being. It also handsomely rewards those who succeed.

With Facebook and MyLastCigarette as my psychological support:


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