A comprehensive program to beat nicotine addiction
There is a lot of ongoing discussion about the safety or dangers of smoking and vaping. What is often overlooked is a hard fact: nicotine is extremely addictive. Once kids get hooked, the majority will be hooked for life. Laws against smoking and vaping have never been effective – the vast majority of nicotine users start before they are 18. Between the internet and the variety of vaping devices, it is easier than ever to become a habitual user. UP4Air is developing a comprehensive, connected system to assist people in breaking the habit of nicotine addiction.
VaporLies key initiatives
Connect with 5th graders
The program recognizes the difficulties in reaching kids at an age when we know they have little understanding of future consequences. We go to elementary schools because vaping often starts in middle school.
Have young people deliver the message
VaporLies is a sustainable, inexpensive program connecting fifth graders to young college students and graduate students so that they can hear a message they are already hearing, but in a way that they are more likely to hear.
Keep the message simple
Nicotine is addictive, and companies want to get you addicted so they can take your money. We repeat VaporLies annually.
2018: Origins of the program
A public health program intending to stem the tide of kids becoming addicted to nicotine.
In the summer of 2018, staff at Centra Health’s Alan B. Pearson Regional Cancer Center in Lynchburg, VA joined with graduate and undergraduate students at Liberty University to pilot a public health program intending to stem the tide of kids becoming addicted to nicotine. Where the fight against smoking had resulted in some of the lowest rates seen in history, the emergence of the e-cigarette or “vape” and industry threats like Juul took advantage of new technologies both in the delivery devices themselves and also in the way we use social media to deliberately target children with stunning success. By the end of 2019, teenage vaping was nothing short of an epidemic. Our initial program was intended as a trial, and the ongoing program is a continual experiment. None of the lessons learned here are proprietary or copywritten, the idea is to protect as many of the next generation as possible from addiction.
Targeting elementary school age children
We know that kid’s brains are not fully developed, and once addicted, we have insufficient tools to help. Our best approach is to have kids understand the risks of nicotine addiction.
We go to elementary schools because vaping often starts in middle school. We began with the long- standing curriculum of Tar Wars, but we modified the approach to address our biggest issue: access to the students. For many public schools, time is in short supply. So, we started with the school administration in the summer, and we secured one hour for every elementary school class in the city for the coming year. This remains the most critical part of the process.
We struggle with the reality that elementary school age children have little understanding of future consequences or of complex concepts like addiction. This program does not require any funding. Though we typically provide inexpensive packs for our preceptors with some props such as fake money, it can be effectively implemented without spending any money.
Young people as preceptors
Have other young people (college, graduate students) deliver the message, because kids relate to young people better than adults.
By using young people as preceptors (college and graduate students), we deliver a message that most of the kids have already heard, but in a way that they may better understand.
Tar Wars has continued to update their material, and that is available to anyone. Therefore, the content of the presentation is not as important as who is presenting it.
We are collecting data prior to, during, and months after the program is administered.
We are intent on using evidence-based data, though we admit that this evidence is difficult to obtain: vaping is new, and data collection is hindered by the legal and ethical constraints of investigational studies involving children. CITI training is encourage for any community organizer. We hope that this data will help us continue to evolve and increase effectiveness and we intend to share the lessons learned with anyone interested in helping to spread our efforts to mitigate teenage nicotine addiction.