Limiting frequency of cigarette use

Nicostopper - image from Nicostopper.com Nicostopper - image from Nicostopper.com
Images from nicostopper.com and Popgadget

Nicostopper is an electronic dispenser which holds up to 10 cigarettes, and releases them one at a time at programmed intervals, to help pace and restrict the smoker. The screen “will also flash “self-help” messages each time to make you feel guilty as well” (Popgadget). It’s styled fairly discreetly to look similar to a portable music player or phone – the resemblance is accentuated in the photo above right with the extended cigarette in the position of the aerial – presumably so the user will be more likely to feel at home using it in public and social situations.

This is an interesting product, attempting to affect a user’s behaviour to reduce consumption rather than increase it as with so many other architectures of control. Indeed, smoking could well be seen as a battle between two attempts to control/influence users’ behaviour, with vast sums spent on advertising and methods both to promote the practice, and to encourage smokers to give up. We’ve looked before at cigarettes as a parasitic lock-in method, especially in the context of increasing nicotine levels to compound addiction*.

Of course, a device such as Nicostopper does not stop the user asking a friend or someone else for a cigarette, nor indeed taking a full packet along in addition. The actual strength of control is fairly low. The user really must want to control his or her habit, and be determined to do so, otherwise there is no point in buying the device. Even the significant commitment shown by buying Nicostopper, and the expense of it, may help the user to take more control of the situation, and there’s also the factor that, as Uber Review puts it:

If that doesn’t stop you from smoking at least you will have $300 less to spend on smokes after you pay for the device.

I recently mentioned Lee Iacocca’s quote on rationalising major purchases – to the extent that spending $300 on a Nicostopper is a major purchase, this may increase its effectiveness, at least for the first few months, since the user feels guilty about spending $300 on the product, and is thus more committed actually to using it, even if only to justify it to friends and family. Like exercise bikes and home gym equipment abandoned a few months after Christmas, the Nicostopper may ultimately fail in a large percentage of users’ attempts to change their own behaviour, but will surely succeed in some cases.

Interestingly, Ross Anderson comments, at Popgadget:

I distinctly remember hearing, about 30 years ago, that the then Soviet ruler Leonid Brezhnev owned such a device that had been specially built to his specifications.

This is confirmed here by John Negroponte

He had a problem with his smoking. I remember he couldn’t control smoking either, he had a little machine, little cigarette box, with a timer on it that was only allowed to open every so many minutes, so that he wouldn’t smoke to many cigarettes.

…and also in this Time story from 1971:

Brezhnev customarily works late at the Kremlin, sometimes has difficulty sleeping without a sedative. To cut down on his smoking, he is trying a time-lock cigarette case (made in France, he thinks) which opens only after a preset number of minutes or hours has passed. “Yesterday,” Brezhnev told L’Humanité, “I smoked only 17 cigarettes.”

Of course, simply having a smaller standard cigarette case with space for only a few cigarettes might have much the same effect as devices with timers, etc. As with packaging/serving sizes, the quantity which we expect to consume can be affected by the way it’s presented. Maybe smaller cigarettes – getting a little bit smaller each year – would have a gradual effect of lessening dependence on the chemical content of the product, but not on the physical addiction to picking up a cigarette, lighting it, etc.

*As my brother commented, tobacco companies may increase the nicotine, but they don’t increase the tar: a parasite doesn’t want to kill its host.

10 Comments

  1. Appreciate to have of the information for the article nicostopper in order to stop to smoke
    dress to Italy Turin
    how much coast the product?
    for costesi to adare information
    to following address of mail entony_stone@yahho.it
    tank you
    Antonio

  2. Appreciate to have of the information for the article nicostopper in order to stop to smoke
    dress to Italy Turin
    how much coast the product?
    for costesi to adare information
    to following infirizzo of mail entony_stone@yahoo.it

  3. As a smoker I am REALLY interested with this devise. Does it gradualy reduce the smoes gradually in small controlled indervals, or is it operator contolled only.

    Many thanks

    David

  4. Evelyn

    I would like to buy a cigarette case with a timer but can’t find anyplace to order one except one that is written entirely in Japanese so I don’t know how to use it. Do you know how I can get one please?

    • hill diane

      Dear Evelyn,
      Did you ever find out where you
      could buy the cigarette case with a
      timer. I have a sister with Huntingtons or HD and she smokes alot we are trying to help her to slow down and i think that this would work. if you have any info please email me back
      thanks, Diane

  5. I would not recommend wasting money on this pointless gadget. Here’s why. Cutting down to quit is an illusion because smokers can get the same amount of nicotine from fewer cigarettes simply by inhaling more and for longer. Go and see your NHS stop smoking service, free and proven to work.
    I’m sure there are some better ways design can help in helping people to stop smoking.
    Thanks Gus

  6. Pingback: Design with Intent | Persuasive Lens: The Patterns

  7. I just invented this in my mind, yesterday, and searched to be sure it didn’t exist. I would love to have a programmable one that held an entire pack (20 cigarettes).

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