More teens in the United States are using e-cigarettes, and now there’s a program specifically for youth who want to quit vaping or smoking.
National Jewish Health, a hospital in Denver, launched the My Life, My Quit tobacco and vaping cessation program Monday for youth under the age of 18. Teens in nine states – Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah – can call or text the helpline at 1-855-891-9989 or go online to mylifemyquit.com. Teens will then be routed to a trained youth coach who can provide free and confidential live counseling sessions.
“We launched a specific teen quitline which reflects that teens want to make their own decisions,” said Thomas Ylioja, clinical director of health initiatives programs at National Jewish Health. “They don’t want to be told to quit … the decision to stop is theirs, and we’re here to support them.”
The nine states that currently have the My Life, My Quit program were involved with its initial development, but the “hope is to be able to offer to additional states in the near future,” according to Ylioja.
In 2018, more than 3.6 million middle and high schoolers used e-cigarettes. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 78% increase in vaping among high schoolers and a 48% increase among middle schoolers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite more teens using nicotine products, they weren’t calling the National Jewish Health QuitLogix tobacco cessation program as expected, said Ylioja. QuitLogix is a helpline that has been offered since 2002 and has a toll-free number at 1-855-372-0044. Teens in focus groups said the program was “too adult-oriented” and “were looking for a program designed for [teens],” said Ylioja.
Before launching the program, experts and staff from National Jewish Health learned that teens prefer text messaging, instead of calling. So, they created a program that had multiple communication options. After initial contact, teens interested in the program can fill out an enrollment form online and meet with a coach for five sessions over the course of four weeks. During these sessions, coaches and teens come up with smoking or vaping cessation plans, strategies to handle peer pressure and overall goals.
There are other cessation aids for young people, such as text message programs from Truth Initiative and Smokefree Teen, a program by the National Cancer Institute. My Life, My Quit provides structured, live coaching sessions for youth across using multiple communication tools, said Ylioja.
The US Food and Drug Administration does not have any approved nicotine cessation products for e-cigarettes users under 18, which is why the My Life, My Quit program has an age limit, according to Ylioja. Those who are 18 and older can participate in QuitLogix, which offers nicotine replacement therapy with patches or gum.
The long-term health effects of vaping aren’t clear. Nicotine changes the brain, interfering with developing brains of young people. Health experts worry that getting hooked on nicotine early in life may be a gateway to cigarette smoking and other drugs. One study found that youth who use e-cigarettes are about three times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
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“There’s no better thing you can do for your respiratory health than to quit smoking,” Ylioja said. “We are providing teenagers with resources to help them stop smoking now.”