Development of a Virtual Human for Supporting Tobacco Cessation During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Publication date: Dec 05, 2023

People who consume tobacco are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the accessibility of tobacco cessation services as a result of necessary social restrictions. Innovations were urgently needed to support tobacco cessation during the pandemic. Virtual humans are artificially intelligent computer agents with a realistic, humanlike appearance. Virtual humans could be a scalable and engaging way to deliver tobacco cessation information and support. Florence, a virtual human health worker, was developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization to remotely support people toward tobacco cessation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Florence delivers evidence-based information, assists with making quit plans, and directs people to World Health Organization-recommended cessation services in their country. In this viewpoint, we describe the process of developing Florence. The development was influenced by a formative evaluation of data from 115 early users of Florence from 49 countries. In general, Florence was positively perceived; however, changes were requested to aspects of her design and content. In addition, areas for new content were identified (eg, for nonsmoker support persons). Virtual health workers could expand the reach of evidence-based tobacco cessation information and personalized support. However, as they are a new innovation in tobacco cessation, their efficacy, feasibility, and acceptability in this application needs to be evaluated, including in diverse populations.

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Concepts Keywords
Agents AI
Covid artificial intelligence
Innovation chatbot
Pandemic conversational agent
Tobacco COVID-19
digital health intervention
mobile phone
public health
smoking cessation
tobacco cessation
virtual health worker
virtual human
web-based health


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 Pandemic
disease VO organization
disease IDO country
disease IDO process
disease IDO intervention
disease MESH death
disease MESH cancer
disease MESH cardiovascular disease
disease VO Gap
disease VO effective
disease MESH nicotine dependence
disease VO time
disease MESH morbidity
drug DRUGBANK Nicotine
disease VO effectiveness
disease VO vaccine
disease VO vaccinated
disease VO vaccination
drug DRUGBANK Aspartame
drug DRUGBANK Methyl isocyanate
disease VO mouth
drug DRUGBANK Tropicamide
disease VO efficient
drug DRUGBANK Methyltestosterone
drug DRUGBANK Carboxyamidotriazole
drug DRUGBANK Etoperidone
disease VO company
disease MESH non communicable diseases
drug DRUGBANK Coenzyme M
disease VO Canada
disease MESH loneliness
drug DRUGBANK Trestolone
drug DRUGBANK Ethanol
disease MESH lifestyle
pathway REACTOME Reproduction

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