The Northland Coalition, Youth with Vision and community prevention coalitions from across Clay, Platte and Ray counties joined together to offer a free, anonymous, text-based program designed to help youth quit using e-cigarette and vaping devices.
“This is Quitting is a nationwide program sponsored by the Truth Initiative that offers 13- to 24-year-olds an anonymous, personalized way to give up the habit of vaping,” said Emily Barnes, a community prevention specialist for Tri-County Mental Health Services. “As youth vaping continues to be a nationwide and local concern, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to increase access to nicotine cessation for youth.”
The website for the Truth Initiative, which also offers programs for adults, explains that while e-cigarette use is often called vaping, it is actually an aerosol containing chemical particles delivered through a device. The group states evidence suggests these particles can lead to cardiovascular injury as well as negative effects on one’s resting heart rate, blood pressure and cells that line blood vessels.
Truth Initiative is a nonprofit, public health organization that engages in research and policy studies to create and implement successful campaigns in communities across the country to eliminate tobacco use and nicotine addiction.
Barnes said when a recent Missouri student survey indicated upwards of 15% of Missouri youth in sixth through 12th grade reported vaping in the last 30 days, community coalitions throughout the Northland realized the importance of taking action to provide cessation help.
“Vaping is highly addictive, and many young people have trouble stopping once they have started. We realize that part of preventing youth from vaping is helping those who are already vaping to stop. This will not only help the health of those who vape, but also reduce the availability and social acceptability of vapes to other youth,” the community prevention specialist said.
When a community decides to join the national text program, a keyword specific to that region is created to text to an established number.
“We worked with our youth prevention advocacy council, Youth With Vision, to develop our keyword,” Barnes said.
A Northland young person wishing to connect with the cessation program can text “BREAKFREE” to 88709. Texts are handled anonymously.
Barnes said when a person contacts the program, he or she will receive questions to help the program design specific, age-appropriate, individualized quitting tips.
“Then the young person will receive a tip a day for 12 weeks to help them meet the challenge of walking away from vaping,” Barnes said.
Statistics from the Truth Initiative show after two weeks, 45% of participants reported a decrease in use of vaping devices, with about 22% stating they eliminated their use.
“We are so excited to be able to give our young people this cessation tool to help them in their efforts to quit this dangerous habit,” Barnes said.
Truth Initiative resources for parents are also available. Parents can text “QUIT” to (202) 899-7550 to sign up to receive text messages designed specifically for parents of vapers.