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Young people enrolled in Truth Initiative quit vaping program report high levels of e-cigarette addiction

Youth and young adults enrolled in a Truth Initiative® program designed to help e-cigarette users quit reported higher nicotine dependence and frequency of use compared to a general population sample of young people who wanted to stop vaping nicotine, according to research published in Preventive Medicine Reports. The research suggests that those with higher levels of e-cigarette addiction may be more likely to seek help quitting.

The study aligns with separate data indicating high levels of youth nicotine addiction: More than 2.1 million middle and high school students reported current e-cigarette use, with 25% reporting daily use, according to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey. In recent years, youth nicotine addiction has been increasingly fueled by e-cigarettes that are bigger, cheaper and stronger than ever before, fueling nicotine addiction among teenagers and young adults.

Overall interest in quitting vaping remains high among young people. More than two-thirds (67%) of e-cigarette users ages 15 to 24 said they were considering quitting as a New Year's resolution, according to a December 2023 Truth Initiative survey. Truth Initiative’s first-of-its-kind, text-based quit program, launched in 2019, has since helped over 700,000 young people on their journey to quit vaping through personalized messages and other resources. Research shows that e-cigarette users enrolled in the program are nearly 40% more likely to quit vaping nicotine and less likely to use other tobacco products.

Girl on the phone and vaping

Data show high levels of nicotine dependence and psychological distress

In this study, researchers found that treatment-seeking young people enrolled in the quit vaping program reported using e-cigarettes on twice as many days in the previous month (26 vs. 13) compared to a general population sample of young people who said they intended to quit. Study participants also reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress and dependence on e-cigarettes.

Research shows that nicotine addiction can intensify symptoms of depression and anxiety and increase stress levels. A separate Truth Initiative study found strong associations between mental health illness diagnosis and e-cigarette use among college students, although it did not determine if one causes the other.

For the study, researchers surveyed 697 youth and young adults ages 13 to 24 who sought treatment through the program between February and March 2023. They compared responses to a separate sample of 665 individuals ages 15 to 24 who expressed intentions to quit vaping through the Truth Longitudinal Cohort, a separate nationally representative longitudinal survey conducted October 2022 to February 2023.

Young people with all levels of nicotine addiction need quitting support

Although the study indicates that youth and young adults with higher nicotine dependence are more likely to reach out for support, it also highlights an opportunity for expanding resources and support to young people with lower addiction levels.

“While this phenomenon may reflect the fact that individuals with more risk factors and greater levels of addiction have the greatest need for treatment, it is likely also the case that many individuals with lower dependence and fewer risks would benefit from engagement with treatment,” the authors write.

The researchers suggested that online advertising is an effective way to reach more young people who want to quit e-cigarettes. Live programming through streaming and gaming platforms could be a potential avenue to reach young people who might not respond to other forms of advertising.

Young people can text to get help with quitting vaping

Teens and young adults can get free, anonymous help to quit vaping by texting DITCHVAPE to 88709.

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