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Concerns about health and mental health increasingly drive young people to quit vaping

Young people enrolled in a quit vaping program from Truth Initiative cited health (56.1%) and social influence (15.8%) as their top reasons for quitting vaping, according to new research published in Addictive Behaviors Reports.

The study analyzed 2,000 responses from young users of the text message program This is Quitting, which has supported more than 680,000 young people on their journey to quit vaping nicotine. Researchers found enrollees in 2022 were significantly more concerned about health (56.1% vs. 42.3%), mental health (9.3% vs. 1.7%), and social influence (15.8% vs. 8.7%) compared to 2019 when researchers last analyzed participants’ reasons for quitting vaping.

This is Quitting users reported less concern about the financial cost associated with vaping – 10.3% cited cost as a reason for wanting to quit in 2022 compared to 18.7% in 2019 – which may reflect the widespread availability of cheaper e-cigarettes. Prices for disposable e-cigarettes dropped by nearly 70% between 2017 and 2022, while nicotine strength and e-liquid capacity have shot upwards, according to a recent Truth Initiative study published in Tobacco Control.

Overall interest in quitting vaping remains high: 67% of 15- to 24-year-old e-cigarette users surveyed said they are considering quitting as a New Year's resolution, according to a separate Truth Initiative survey that is consistent with previous surveys that have found similar levels of interest in quitting. Understanding young peoples’ reasons for quitting vaping is valuable information for improving public education campaigns and quitting interventions.

Tracking motivations to quit vaping

In Truth Initiative’s first analysis of young people’s reasons for quitting vaping, e-cigarette users enrolled in This is Quitting cited health, financial cost, freedom from addiction, and social influence as their top reasons for quitting vaping in 2019. In 2022, top reasons for wanting to quit vaping were health, social influence, and “other” reasons that did not fit into other categories.

Since the earlier study, the e-cigarette landscape has shifted dramatically, impacted by factors such as changing e-cigarette regulations, media coverage, public education efforts, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting researchers to measure how motivations for quitting may have changed.

Concerns about health, mental health on the rise

While health was the number one reason for quitting across both years, 2022 saw a significant increase in young people who cited health as their reason for quitting (from 42.3% to 56.1%). Concern about current health specifically increased by 13.9 percentage points (11.5% to 25.4%) between 2019 and 2022, while mental health concerns like anxiety and depression and mentions of “motivation” increased by 7.6 percentage points (from 1.7% to 9.3%) in the same timeframe.

“I want to feel like I can be happy without nicotine, I have also noticed increased anxiety since I started vaping,” wrote one This is Quitting user. Another wrote, “[I] want to be more motivated and positive.”

The authors suggest the rise in concern about health and mental health could indicate experiences with negative health impacts from vaping and from increased awareness of these impacts, in part due to public education and media coverage. Truth Initiative has worked to educate young people about the connections between mental health and vaping for the past several years, including through the campaigns “Toxic Therapy from Your Vape”  “Breath of Stress Air,” and “Depression Stick.”

Social influence to quit vaping increases, while financial reasons drop

Researchers also noted a significant increase in young people who cited social influence as a reason for quitting – from 8.7% to 15.8%. This category included reasons that mentioned another person, including but not limited to a significant other, celebrity, or sibling. For example, one This is Quitting user wrote, “My family wants me to quit and I don’t want to rely on it anymore.”

Only 10.3% of respondents mentioned the financial cost of e-cigarettes as their reason for quitting, down from 18.7% in 2019, the largest difference in motivations at an 8.4 percentage point drop.

“Reasons for quitting likely change rapidly with the fluctuating e-cigarette landscape and should be considered in cessation interventions, promotional campaigns, and policy,” the authors write.

Help quitting

To help support young people interested in quitting vaping, Truth Initiative offers This is Quitting, a first-of-its-kind quit vaping program designed specifically for teens and young adults. To date, over 680,000 young people have enrolled in the free and anonymous text messaging program. Young adults aged 18-24 who used the program had nearly 40% higher odds of quitting compared to a control group, according to clinical trial results published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

To enroll in This is Quitting, teens and young adults can text DITCHVAPE to 88709. See “Quit Smoking and Vaping Tools” for more resources.