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Youth are interested in vaping prevention and quit resources – educators can help

Health and education experts joined Truth Initiative CEO and President Robin Koval to discuss how schools should educate students about the health risks of nicotine use. The latest Truth Initiative Impact Series, “Vaping: Know the Truth – Empowering Students with the Facts on E-cigarettes & Tools to Quit,” was moderated by NPR’s education correspondent Anya Kamenetz and featured testimonials from a teacher and students who have used the free, national youth vaping prevention curriculum, Vaping: Know the truth, available through the leading social impact education innovator, EVERFI.

Truth Initiative and Kaiser Permanente – in collaboration with the American Heart Association – developed the set of modules for high school and middle school students as part of Truth Initiative’s nationally recognized truth campaign. Panelists Dr. David Grossman, interim senior vice president of social and community health for Kaiser Permanente, Kim-Jamy Nguyen, EVERFI’s Director of Texas District Partnerships, and Joshua Grant, content coordinator for health and physical education at the West Virginia Department of Education, attested to the curriculum’s effectiveness.

“The curriculum only launched about a year ago,” said Dr. Grossman, “but there are already early signs of success, and the curriculum is effective and is also filling a critical need in school health and, most importantly, it’s resonating with youth.”

Reaching students with resources and support

Research published this year in BMC Public Health showed that young people with strong truth brand awareness and loyalty had 19% lower odds of vaping and 25% lower odds of intending to vape a year and a half later. Increases in brand equity, or audience perception of a brand, were also associated with 21% lower odds of intention to vape and 9% greater odds of having negative attitudes about e-cigarettes.

Nguyen said the program is meeting an urgent need. “For instance,” she said, “Louisiana: They actually passed a legislation that mandated an anti-vaping course “They wanted to use Vaping: Know the truth as part of that because it fit that need.”

This August, 70% of 15- to 24-year-olds in a survey by Truth Initiative reported that they anticipated seeing people vape at similar or higher rates as they went back to school.

“Some districts are realizing that they have to find supports for these students,” said Grant, “and finding alternatives to suspension and providing curriculums that don’t make it a behavioral consequence but more of an educational piece.”

Melissa Kaiser, a health educator at Bridgeport High School in West Virginia, spoke about her experience with using the curriculum in the classroom. “I feel like the Vaping: Know the truth module does an excellent job of explaining to the students why they shouldn’t vape or use a substance that’s addictive such as nicotine. We often tend to just tell students that they shouldn’t do something instead of teaching them the why, and I am an advocate, as a health educator, that we should explain and teach students at an early age how certain negative risk factors affect us on the inside.”

The importance of confidential quit programs

This Is Quitting is the first-of-its-kind free and anonymous texting program from truth to help young people quit vaping and has become a resource for more than 400,000 young people. The program incorporates messages from others of the same age group who have attempted to or successfully quit vaping. A randomized clinical trial found that young adults aged 18-24 who used This is Quitting had nearly 40% higher odds of quitting compared to a control group.

Most youth, fearing punishment for e-cigarette use, don’t want parents, teachers, sports coaches, or other administrators involved in quit vaping programs,  according to recent research by the Yale School of Medicine published in Addictive Behaviors.

The latest CDC data show that youth vaping remains a serious public health threat with over 2 million high school and middle school students continuing to use e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, few quit vaping programs exist. From September to December 2019, the Yale School of Medicine conducted eight focus groups of current and former e-cigarette users enrolled in high school to learn what youth would want out of a quit vaping program.

Not only do many high school students fear punishment for vaping, they believe fear of embarrassment due to being addicted to e-cigarettes would keep their peers from participating in quit vaping programs. For these reasons, youth want quit vaping programs to keep participants’ identities confidential.

Truth Initiative’s Impact Series

The Truth Initiative Impact Series is a robust, recurring event that brings together key stakeholders and experts to engage in thought-provoking conversations about ways we can innovate and inspire action to achieve a culture where young people reject smoking, vaping and nicotine. The goal of this thought leadership series is to convene diverse partners in tobacco control and other public health organizations, parents, teachers, and policy makers who can benefit from Truth Initiative’s work.

In case you missed it, watch our previous Impact Series events: “Thrive: A Youth Mental-Health Summit,” “Unvaping America’s Youth,” and “Not Buying It: The Tobacco Industry’s Rebrand.”