(BPT) - Amid the nation's ongoing youth vaping epidemic, health organizations are stepping in to help teens kick nicotine out of their lives. According to the latest CDC data, one in five high school students use e-cigarettes with nearly 40% of users doing so on a regular basis.
Youth vaping prevention and education curriculum
Truth Initiative, the organization behind the youth smoking and vaping prevention national truth campaign that helped drive down youth smoking to historic lows, and Kaiser Permanente as part of its Thriving Schools initiative, recently launched a free national curriculum called Vaping: Know the truth. In addition to encouraging students to live vape-free lives, the course educates about the health dangers of e-cigarettes and provides essential resources to help young people to quit vaping or never start in the first place. The curriculum is available directly to schools by leading social impact education innovator, EVERFI and the American Heart Association is promoting the availability of the course as part of its Tobacco-Free Toolkit.
Vaping: Know the truth is a self-paced interactive course with peer-to-peer, digital instruction geared to high school students and available to teachers across grade levels. The course curriculum is comprised of four learning modules and through real-world scenarios, students will learn about the risks of vaping nicotine, the marketing efforts used by the tobacco industry that target young consumers and the dangers of addiction to help empower them to make healthier, more informed choices.
Given that millions of youth are already vaping, this digital course directly links to Truth Initiative’s first-of-its-kind, free and anonymous text message quit vaping resource for teens and young adults: This is Quitting. The program has already helped more than 240,000 young people on their journey to quit vaping since it launched in 2019. Data published about the program show that more than half of participants (60.8%) reported that they had reduced or stopped using e-cigarettes after just two weeks of using This is Quitting. By directly linking to the proven-effective quitting resource designed specifically for young people, Vaping: Know the truth helps youth get access to the support they need to quit.
According to EVERFI, vaping education is consistently one of the most requested health content curriculums by educators. Teachers nationwide have already started implementing the curriculum and are responding positively. One teacher from Maine shared: “I have taught for 15 years and everywhere, kids are vaping. Of all the worthy courses, this vaping one may be the most relevant, immediate and important one.”
Educators can measure the program's success and track learners through their experience by measuring their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs through embedded assessments and surveys.
High rates of youth tobacco use
Youth tobacco use is at its highest rate in nearly 20 years. Data published in December 2020 in JAMA Pediatrics show that 22% of 10th and 12th graders report using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, essentially unchanged from 22.5% in 2019. These data are consistent with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that showed nearly 20% of high school students and 4.7% of middle schoolers use e-cigarettes. Compounding the issue further, nearly 40% of high school students who vape do so regularly. These data underscore that youth tobacco use remains at epidemic levels and much more needs to be done.
Youth exposure to nicotine is particularly dangerous since it has been shown to harm brain development, alter nerve cell functioning and make adolescent brains more susceptible to other addictive drugs. The youth e-cigarette epidemic also reverses years of progress in youth tobacco prevention, with Truth Initiative research showing that young people who ever vaped are up to seven times more likely to start using deadly cigarettes.
“Today’s teenagers are smart and discerning,” said Robin Koval, Truth Initiative CEO and president. “Giving direct access to the facts about vaping and providing resources to quit designed specifically for them empowers young people to make positive choices when it comes to vaping and their health. This is especially urgent amidst new research that links youth vaping with an increased risk of testing positive for COVID-19. This curriculum is a continuation of our national truth campaign to support young people in taking a stand against e-cigarettes and the tobacco industry, which aggressively seeks to recruit a new generation of tobacco users. We’re grateful for our partners who are helping us reach more students, parents and educators with Vaping: Know the truth in a joint effort to end the pervasive youth vaping epidemic.”
Vaping and lung health
Growing evidence suggests that vaping harms lung health. Youth vaping is especially worrisome following the 2019 outbreak of vaping use-associated lung disease (EVALI) and now during the COVID-19 pandemic. New research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that teens and young adults who vape are up to five times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than their non-vaping peers.
Meanwhile, teens are becoming increasingly health conscious. According to a Truth Initiative survey, 62% of young vapers between 15 and 24 years old reported that they are more interested in quitting vaping now compared to before the pandemic. Nearly half (48%) responded that the pandemic has prompted them to look for information about quitting or talk to someone about quitting.