Biography and Research Interests
Smoking is one of the leading public health problems in the world, killing each year about six million people worldwide. Among youth aged 10 to 19 years of age in the Netherlands, 16% smoked in the last four weeks and 9% are daily smokers. Despite these high numbers, there is no evidence-based intervention program available to help youth quit smoking in the Netherlands. Besides the lack of high-quality research, recruitment and retention of youth are two of the most challenging aspects of the implementation and evaluation of smoking cessation interventions. We argue that limitations in current smoking cessation interventions for youth can be maximally addressed by using video games as interventions.
There are several important causal factors related to smoking onset and persistence that serve as potential key targets for intervention. Smoking among adolescents is clearly a social phenomenon that is largely tied to networks of peers, therefore it seems important to incorporate mechanisms that target social competence and influence in an intervention. Another important determinant of the onset and maintenance of youth smoking is impulsivity. Two core distinctive components of impulsivity exist, which are both implicated in smoking behavior. First, the emergence and maintenance of adolescent substance dependence, such as smoking, may be explained by deficits in inhibitory control. The inability to quit smoking regardless of negative consequences may be explained by deficits in inhibitory control. The second component of impulsivity is an exacerbation of impulsive decision making, also known as delay discounting. Smokers tend to have a preference for immediate small rewards over larger delayed rewards.
In the current project a video game will be developed as an intervention to help youth quit smoking. Two mini-games, which are based on a inhibition training and a delay discounting training, will be build and incorporated in a larger video game, which context will be focused on peer and social processes. Thereby, we hope to increase the attractiveness of the intervention and motivation to participate in general. Finally, we will test this video game on its effectiveness and examine mechanisms of change to help youth quit smoking.