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Research Article Research Article

Vaping curriculum by truth increases student knowledge about e-cigarettes

An online course about the dangers of using e-cigarettes, created by Truth Initiative® and Kaiser Permanente and in collaboration with the American Heart Association, significantly increased e-cigarette knowledge among middle and high school participants, according to a study published in Health Promotion Practice. The Truth Initiative study finds that students who completed the digital course Vaping: Know the truth saw a 15% average increase in their scores on e-cigarette knowledge compared to before completing the course. The course’s demonstrated ability to increase e-cigarette knowledge provides compelling evidence that Vaping: Know the truth is a powerful tool in a multi-pronged approach to prevent youth from vaping and encourage them to quit.

The prevalence of vaping among youth remains high, with 2.5 million middle and high school students reporting current e-cigarette use in 2022. The free, online course Vaping: Know the truth is designed for middle and high school students and uses a peer-to-peer voice, which research shows increases message receptivity and addresses young peoples’ preferences for relatable personal anecdotes from their peers.

Addressing knowledge gaps, connecting students with help to quit

Researchers analyzed the scores of more than 100,000 middle and high school students who answered a series of 20 knowledge items before and after completing the online course. They found that students’ e-cigarette knowledge significantly improved after completing the curriculum: students correctly answered over three additional questions about e-cigarettes on the post-course assessments.

Educating young people about e-cigarettes and their associated risks is an important first step in potentially preventing the onset of vaping and helping those who already vape to quit. Despite the high prevalence of use among youth, many users have limited knowledge of e-cigarettes. For example, a previous study by Truth Initiative found that 63% of young adult users of JUUL were unaware that the e-cigarette product almost always contains nicotine. In addition, young people may be unaware of the health risks associated with e-cigarette use. Nicotine is harmful and addictive to young brains, and is associated with increased symptoms of anxiety and stress. The increasing number of e-cigarettes on the market with very high nicotine levels may pose an even greater threat to the mental health of young people.

Vaping: Know the truth contains four lessons: “KNOW,” which briefly describes the history of tobacco and nicotine use; “UNCOVER,” which breaks down e-cigarette companies’ marketing tactics; “OVERCOME,” which highlights the dangers of nicotine addiction; and “CHANGE,” which examines social norms around vaping and reinforces alternative behaviors. The program provides students who already vape with resources to quit with This is Quitting,® a text-based vaping cessation program specifically for young people with more than 600,000 enrollees.

Reaching many high-risk young people with one program

The curriculum is also a universal program, meaning that it can be effective for all students despite their risk status. Students who scored the lowest on the initial assessments had the greatest average increase in score, providing evidence that Vaping: Know the truth helps students with the greatest knowledge gaps. “Our study findings reinforce the decision to deliver the program to a broad population, reaching many students while having a significantly positive impact on those with the highest need,” the authors write.

Universal programs are a more cost-effective choice for schools, and because Vaping: Know the truth can be administered in-class or as a take-home assignment, the reach and potential impact of the program is extensive. “By offering the flexibility of digital content within multiple modules, a peer-to-peer voice, and a focus on relevant issues, Vaping: Know the truth engages young people with factual content about e-cigarette use,” the authors write.