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Quit vaping program sees high enrollment and engagement, as thousands seek help amid youth e-cigarette use epidemic

More than 27,000 teens and young adults enrolled in a first-of-its-kind quit vaping program within just five weeks after its launch, underscoring the need for quitting tools to combat the national youth e-cigarette use epidemic.

A new report published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research describes the uptake and enrollment in This is Quitting, a free text message quit vaping program Truth Initiative launched in January 2019. Within just five weeks, 13,421 teens and 13,750 young adults had already joined, according to the report from the Innovations Center at Truth Initiative, which developed the program. Nearly three-quarters of users set a quit date, with the most common quit date being the day of enrollment. At a two-week follow up assessment, 61% of respondents indicated they had reduced or stopped using e-cigarettes altogether. 

Truth Initiative developed the program in response to the surgeon general’s declaration of a youth e-cigarette epidemic following a drastic increase in youth e-cigarette use. In just one year, vaping increased among middle schoolers by 48 percent and among high schoolers by 78 percent, according to data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. In addition, the frequency of use among current high school e-cigarette users went up, with nearly 28 percent vaping 20 days or more in the past month. JUUL, the popular e-cigarette that is partly owned by tobacco company Altria, tripled its market share in just over a year to own three-quarters of the U.S. e-cigarette market and is driving much of the increase in use by young people

Exposure to nicotine in young people can impact learning, memory and attention, and lead to increased impulsivity, mood disorders and addiction to other drugs. Many teens begin using e-cigarettes without realizing that the devices can contain high concentrations of nicotine, which is addictive, and then struggle to quit. Before the launch of This is Quitting, there were no easily accessible quit vaping programs that young people could turn to for help.

Here are some key takeaways from the early assessment of This is Quitting:

A text message program appeals to young people

A text message program to help youth and young adults quit vaping

Truth initiative developed This is Quitting, offered as part of truth®, with input from teens, college students and young adults who have quit or attempted to quit e-cigarettes. It builds on the best available evidence for treating tobacco addiction in young people, adapted to the unique experiences and needs of young vapers. Users receive one age-appropriate text message per day tailored to their enrollment date or quit date, which can be set and reset via text message. Text messaging – a service that a majority of young people use – allows them to enroll anonymously and discreetly without having to disclose to anyone that they are vaping and need support.

The program encourages users to explore reasons for quitting and envision life after stopping e-cigarette use. It recommends specific, concrete actions and urges users to experiment with quitting strategies in small steps. 

“Quitting e-cigarettes can be isolating for young people,” lead author Dr. Amanda Graham wrote. “To engage youth, we positioned the program as a supportive, non-judgmental friend, with messages written in the first person or as quotes from other users.” 

This approach appears to be resonating with young people, who have enrolled in the program in large numbers. Engagement with the program is high: nearly half of teens and nearly 40% of young adults used the program’s interactive keyword feature, which allows users to text “CRAVE,” “STRESS,” or “SLIP” to receive additional, on-demand support. 

“The friendly tone and use of first person throughout the program encourages enrollees to respond to it as they would a friend,” Graham added. More than 7,500 individuals have responded to the open-ended questions in the program, with many expressing their appreciation for the compassion and support the program has provided.

There is a clear need for a program to help young people quit vaping

Do youth and young adults want to quit vaping

High enrollment in This is Quitting, combined with significant media interest, highlights a need the program is filling. JUUL and similar devices seem to be everywhere, but guidance and support to help people quit them aren’t.

TODAY show announced the launch of This is Quitting, and it has since been featured in over 500 news stories. Many young people that have enrolled to date joined within hours after the technology-focused publication, Mashable, featured a Story about This is Quitting in its Snapchat Discover channel on January 30, 2019. Since that time, the program has seen a steady enrollment rate of about 100 to 150 young people each day.

People have enrolled in large numbers without a push from a major paid promotional campaign. To date, Truth Initiative has promoted This is Quitting entirely though earned media and social media.

Early signs of impact

Do quit vaping programs work

Of the roughly 10,000 users who responded to assessment questions after two weeks, 61 percent reported that they had reduced or stopped using e-cigarettes. That includes 46 percent of teens and young adults who reported reducing use, and 12% of teens and 16% of young adults who reported stopping altogether.

Most respondents also indicated a desire for additional support, with nearly three-quarters responding that the program should be longer.

“The high volume of enrollment in a short period of time, high levels of engagement with the
program, and encouraging e-cigarette reduction and cessation results demonstrate that young people are interested in quitting vaping and can be engaged in an easily accessible, anonymous digital platform promoted through social media,” the authors wrote. 

Truth Initiative continues to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, conducting urgently needed research about how to help young people quit vaping.

Read the manuscript published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.