New Yorkers like their cigarettes, this much is clear.
The city is home to nearly 900,000 smokers, data shows, and the Health Department has launched a set of initiatives to help reduce that figure over the next two years. The latest: a new app that aims to be a resource for New Yorkers looking to quit.
Named NYCHelpMeQuit, the app was rolled out last week, providing a medley of resources for residents looking to gain control over their nicotine addictions. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in its tech—it includes a counter that lets users know the last time they smoked and how much money they've saved, a series of eight-bit games to serve as distractions when cravings come along, and a portal to upload photos and add notes to remind people why they’re quitting.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of the app is a feature dubbed “My Quit Buddies,” which is essentially a message board for New Yorkers looking for support and advice while they try to cut smokes out of their lives. The section is already garnering dozens of posts per day and could very well serve as a free community resource for years to come (if it keeps up).
The app’s release comes less than six months after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation that made cigarettes in New York the most expensive in the country, a part of a larger initiative to reduce the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by 2020.
“Quitting smoking is hard, but HelpMeQuit is here to make it easier,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, a former smoker, said in a statement. “The app helps smokers stay motivated to quit and reminds New Yorkers of the important health and financial milestones along the way.”
The app is currently available on both Android and iOS and requires either a Facebook account or a verified email address to sign in. When users set up their account, they complete a survey asking them how often they smoke and how many cigarettes they buy at a time (carton, pack or a loosie). The app also asks for users’ zip codes, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Health Department decided to leverage that data to help determine which areas of the city are home to high levels of illicit tobacco sales.
After all, New York is the top state for cigarette smuggling in the country.