Can A Smarter Lighter Wean You Off Smoking?

What if you combined fitness tracking technology with the world of tobacco? You might just add fuel to the addictive fire.

It’s been a long day, so you sneak outside for one more cigarette before your next meeting. You open your lighter, take a few drags, and realize there’s no smoke. Why? You’re over your cigarette quota.


This is the future through the eyes of Quitbit ($89), a flameless lighter that tracks how many cigarettes you smoke a day. Inspired by popular fitness devices like the Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and of course, the Fitbit (with which it rhymes but is otherwise unrelated), Quitbit has a screen that shows how long it’s been since your last cigarette. Internal sensors sync with your phone via Bluetooth to turn your habits into sleek graphics.

But Quitbit’s most salient feature is its limiter–a hard stop on how many cigarettes its heating element will light for you a day, coupled with a reduction algorithm, which automatically attenuates limits over time, weaning you off cigarettes rather than making you quit cold turkey. There’s also a social network, for you to share your progress with fellow quitters.

There’s just one catch: These features are totally optional. They’re not activated by default, and furthermore, a smoker can up his limits at any time (say, when he wants another cigarette). Unfortunately, the team sees all these options as necessary to get customers using the Quitbit at all.

“If someone wants a cigarette and Quitbit doesn’t work, chances are they’ll just use another lighter,” co-creator Ata Ghofrani tells Co.Design. “We give people the choice to set up those limits, so they can be accountable when they reach their targets.

Has the irony here been lost on the design team? If smokers will just use another lighter if and when their stubborn lighter doesn’t work, isn’t the whole premise behind Quitbit fatally flawed? Is Quitbit a useless product?

It’s certainly misguided–optimized with enticing graphics, metrics, and social media to engage you, while lacking any true limiters to ever disengage you. And in this regard, modeling the Quitbit after a fitness tracker–a device whose goal is to track and motivate you over months and even years–was a mistake, because one of the worst things smokers could be doing for their health is using the Quitbit for months and even years.


The Quitbit is on Kickstarter now.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.