The goal of Lebanese startup Slighter is to eventually go out of business, but it hopes to help millions of smokers kick their habit along the way.
Its only product is a $129 black, gas cigarette lighter that relies on a combination of tracking, some shaming and flame withholding.
The device, which is packed with sensors and artificial intelligence, spends the first week familiarizing itself with the frequency of the user’s typical smoking schedule.
A companion app collects the data via Bluetooth and creates a customized plan to gradually help a smoker reduce or eliminate their cigarette use. The screen on the lighter displays a countdown letting the smoker know how many minutes are left until they’re allowed to smoke again.
The key part of the system happens in between those times: The flame is disabled from igniting so the smoker cannot light up. However, it features a button that allows users to sneak in a smoke. Founder Samer El Gharib said that without a cheat button, some smokers would inevitably go back to a normal lighter.
“If you want to light up a cigarette outside the allotted time, you have to cheat,” Gharib told CNN Business. “But by pushing that button, you have to admit to us, and to yourself, that you are cheating.”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the app actually reminds users when it’s time to smoke.
“That’s the science of behaviorism, which says that you can teach anything by a carefully designed program of step-by-step reinforcement,” Gharib said. “Whenever they become conditioned, the algorithm will discover that and we start removing notifications from their program.”
The USB-powered device sends notifications to the user in three different ways: a light on the screen, haptic vibration and a sound.
But one habit Slighter can’t help curb is vaping, which doesn’t require a lighter at all.
Although the global tobacco market is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, smoking cessation has seen rapid growth as more developing countries catchup to other markets. It’s expected reach to $4.4 Billion by 2023.
The team behind the device hails from Lebanon, a country not known for having a vibrant startup ecosystem.
“We struggle to do technology because we lack infrastructure,” Gharib said. “However, we have very talented engineers, and I believe with help of funds coming from the Lebanese Central Bank, our ideas and business are starting to get out to the world.”
The device, which is currently available for pre-order, expects to begin deliveries later this year.