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Is Virtual Reality the New Nicotene Patch for Smokers?

By now it seems a pretty idiotic idea that the Internet can cause addiction. But what about using alternate realities to cure it? That’s the concept behind a new study done by the University of Quebec in Gatineau, which tried help smokers quit by designing a virtual reality program where they could chase down floating cigarettes like Mario Bros coins–and then crush them.

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virtual smoking

For the study, 91 smokers were divided into two groups. One chased phantasmal smokes; the other was a control that went after imaginary blue balls like Labrador Retrievers. After 12 weeks of gaming and going to support-group meetings, about 15% of the cigarette crushers quit compared to just 2% of their peers. Six months later, the crushers improved even more, about 60% were able to go at least one week without smoking, compared to 20% of the control group. As scientists explained to Discovery News, the arcade theory was designed to work on two levels, both conditioning a different reflex to being presented with a cigarette and creating a mental image that someone could flash back on to reinforce that.

Just one catch: Apparently some of the quitters failed because every time they snatched a digital smoke, they just pretended to be saving it for later, overriding science with more vivid imagination.

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