Youth vaping continues to be a pervasive epidemic, with 1 in 9 high schoolers reporting vaping in 2021. Through our research (n=1,594), we learned that mental health is the #1 issue on the minds of young people. We know that vaping nicotine can amplify feelings of depression and anxiety. We also know from our research that young people want to quit, but they need support.
Vaping is in their faces at every turn – in schools, bathrooms, and even areas designated "tobacco-free." It may seem like all young people are vaping, and none are trying to quit, but our research told a different story. We found that:
60% of 15-to-24-year-old current vapers want to quit vaping and that they need support to do so.
More than half (51%) of young people who wanted to quit believe texting would make it easier to do so.
The idea of support was the most compelling statement regarding helping quitters.
There is emerging evidence suggesting a link between quitting vaping and improvements in mental health symptoms. Truth Initiative survey data show:
90% of those who quit vaping said they felt less stressed, anxious, or depressed.
47% of respondents who quit vaping reported that when they quit vaping they felt more in control.
Our goal is to make young people aware of the harmful impact vaping nicotine can have on their mental health and provide them with the resources and support they need in order to quit.
According to a 2020 Truth Initiative survey, mental health was#1 on the list of concerns among young people. We wanted to highlight the positive impact quitting nicotine can have on mental health, inspire young vapers to quit, and connect them with the resources they need to quit successfully.
We launched a campaign called "Quitters" that followed real young people as they quit vaping, showing how their mental health improved over time.
Here's how we did it:
We asked young people to tell their own stories: Through our network of youth ambassadors, personal connections, This is Quitting program users, and "quit JUUL" discussion boards, we identified real people who were motivated to quit vaping and wanted to share their stories on how both vaping nicotine and quitting vaping impacted their mental health. These weren't aspiring actors or SAG talent – these were regular, "normal" young people we knew our audience could relate to. We worked with each Quitter to set a quit date. Then, we sent them a vlogging kit to document the first seven days of using This is Quitting to quit vaping.
We highlighted the connections between mental health and vaping: We filmed interviews with each Quitter, allowing them to reflect on the experience of quitting and their vaping journey up to that point. Vaping had been Juliuss' go-to coping mechanism for his anxiety, only to realize later it was making him feel worse. For Parker, it wasn't until he tried to quit that he realized vaping nicotine was impacting his mental health. And when Mady realized how much vaping nicotine was impacting her mental health, she knew it was time to give it up. The result was a powerful, unscripted campaign that showed the real faces of the vaping epidemic and highlighted how vaping nicotine can affect mental health. By sharing real-life quitting stories within the campaign, we not only presented the truth about vaping nicotine and the negative effects it can have on mental health, we provided young people with crucial tools and resources to help them quit – and ultimately improve their own mental health.
We connected young people to This is Quitting: The campaign's goal was to inspire young vapers to quit and connect them with This is Quitting, a free, easy-to-use resource designed to provide 24/7 quitting support and advice on their journey. All our ads directed young people to text "DITCHVAPE" to 88709 to join This is Quitting.
Raise the profile of mental health and nicotine connections at all levels: We engaged with key mental health stakeholders – including organizations like the National Council for Mental Well-Being, The Trevor Project, Mental Health America, and Black Mental Health Alliance—as well as public health partners like Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, Centers for Disease Control, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society to gather feedback and gain insight on the issue. We briefed key decision-makers at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, among other groups, to raise the visibility of an important issue threatening young people's mental health.
The campaign was a smash hit: it quickly became apparent that Quitters encouraged young people to quit and connected them with our quitting resources.
Eight weeks after campaign launch, those who had seen the campaign had:
Increased intentions to quit vaping: respondents who had seen the campaign were more likely to report seriously thinking about quitting vaping compared to those who had not seen the ads.
More knowledge of quitting vaping resources: More respondents who had seen the campaign were aware of This is Quitting, knew that hundreds of thousands of people were using the program to quit and agreed that not vaping made them feel powerful , compared to those who had not seen the campaign.
Inspired tens of thousands of young people to join This Is Quitting: A total of 41,412 young people enrolled in This is Quitting while the campaign aired between December 2021 and March 2022. Enrollment in the program has soared since its launch in 2019, with nearly half a million young adults and teens enrolled to date.
Our in-depth research on what was important to young people (mental health) and what they needed to succeed in quitting vaping (support) helped us to craft and test a thoughtful campaign that ultimately inspired them to quit vaping. "Quitters" succeeded in giving young people a glimpse into the impact quitting vaping nicotine can have on mental health and the support and encouragement they need to start their own quitting journeys.