Fitness Challenge Blog

New Year’s Resolution – Smoking Cessation Challenge Edition

Self Reported Weigh In for Challenge

How to Create a Smoking Cessation Challenge using ChallengeRunner.

December 21, 2020 by Joseph

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco ends up killing half of the people who use it regularly. Each year, 7 million people die as a result of tobacco use and 1.2 million die from the effects of secondhand smoke. Tobacco use also contributes to poverty by diverting significant income from daily needs.

Since New Years is the traditional time for resolutions and smoking is one of the worst habits to break, ChallengeRunner has added a new Quick Challenge option for smoking cessation. As a guideline, we used materials from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control to create the ChallengeRunner template.

Like all health and wellness challenges, the real goal is to instill lifestyle changes in participants that will last long after the challenge ends. It is not as simple as creating a true / false question with the caption “Did you smoke today?” While this question is the essence of what you are trying to capture with the challenge, it does nothing to help smokers kick the habit. What we suggest is a challenge with two main themes: preparing to quit and maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle.

Preparing for the Quit Day offers the following 6 steps to successfully create a quit plan:

  1. Pick a quit day
  2. Calculate your cost savings
  3. List your reasons for quitting
  4. List your triggers
  5. Deal with cravings
  6. Set up for success

Step one is to establish the Quit Day. There is a little more to it than just setting the quit day to the challenge start date. It is suggested that the quit day should be on a low-stress day. Since most challenges start on a Monday, and this is generally a high-stress day, we recommend that the first four days of the challenge be used for self-reflection and preparing to quit and then set the actual quit day for Friday.

The next step would be to calculate savings from quitting. Give your participants a guideline for how to calculate savings and enter this number as a benefit reminder. My recommendation would be to allow participants to enter the number of cigarettes they currently smoke per day. At the current cost of $6.28 per pack, or 31 cents per cigarette, the average smoker will save $2292 per year. Entering the average number of cigarettes smoked per day will also serve as a baseline for slip days later in the challenge.

Reasons for quitting, triggers, and dealing with cravings can be set up to capture lists of data from your participants and are designed to promote smoker self-examination and reflection. These are all text-based activities which should be entered before the quit day arrives and are excellent ways to give some one-time points.

Many of the options listed for “set up for success” would be best entered after the start date to provide assistance for the smoker when they are at their weakest and needing support. However, two of the options: “list 3 people for support” and “threw away cigarettes and ashtrays” should be included as preparation for quit day.

Staying Smoke-Free

Now that the quit day has come and gone, maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle is the hard part. You need to not only track the participant smoke free days, but also provide reduced points for days when they slip. In addition, you will want to provide users with points when they seek help.

At this point, we know how many cigarettes the participant smoked per day. We can use this to not only calculate their non-smoking savings, but also gauge the main activity in our challenge: “How Many Cigarettes Did You Smoke Today?”. For the response, use multiple choice options such as the following:

  • None: 10 Points
  • Less than 50% of normal: 5 Points
  • Less than 75% of normal: 2 Points
  • My normal amount: 0 Points

Most smokers regress, give them an incentive to still receive points for the challenge even if they had a slip day. You do not want them to quit the challenge if one of their triggers and cravings got the best of them in a moment of weakness. You should also award points for those seeking assistance when they are at their weakest. A multiple-choice activity with options such as “Called the smoking helpline at: 1-877-44U-QUIT.” provides help alternatives and offers an incentive to seek help.

Adding Support Through Teams

There is also a social side of smoking that is often overlooked. In offices, smoking is now done in specified areas which prompts many smokers know each other. Use this to your advantage when creating your challenge. While the reason for the challenge is not really about points and winning, many of your participants will be motivated by competition and the leaderboard itself. Use the social aspect of smoking and make this a team-based challenge. Ask your participants to form teams to compete against one another. This also adds a little peer-pressure to stay smoke-free especially when other participants can see when you are cheating in those designated smoking areas.

A different spin on using teams might be to include all participants in the same team and then set one or more point goals for the group to meet. Then, reward the group when they reach each milestone. This removes the competitive feature but maintains the self-reinforcing aspect.

Non-Smoking Rewards

Keep the awards small for this challenge. There is a huge incentive to quit smoking and the participants acknowledged them when they listed their reasons for quitting and cost savings. An inexpensive gift card could be given to the winners or even all participants. Another interesting option would be to run this challenge before your employees fill out their annual insurance enrollment forms. Those who stick with the challenge could check the non-smoking option and save big on their insurance! However, many insurers require up to a year of being smoke-free before checking the box, so plan accordingly.


Running a smoking cessation challenge is an excellent way improve the lives of participants and their families. Obviously, there are many other activities that could be added to help make the challenge a success, but the options listed above should get your program started.

To get started with your challenge, log into with your admin Id, click the Create a New Challenge button, and then select option Generate a smoking cessation challenge. Have a safe and smoke-free new year!

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