NCI launches smoking cessation support for teens
A new effort to help teens quit smoking is using one of their most constant companions — the mobile phone
Balintfy: Teen smoking is a serious problem.
Hunt: Nearly 20% of teens are current smokers, and unless we make efforts to intervene today, they will most likely continue smoking into adulthood.
Balintfy: Dr. Yvonne Hunt is a program director in tobacco control research at the NIH.
Hunt: We do have alarmingly high teen smoking rates and there is an opportunity there to intervene.
Balintfy: Early intervention is important because research shows that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and many of its health consequences accumulate over time.
Hunt: Greater exposure to cigarettes over one's lifetime, the health consequences build up and those would include a number of different forms of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases, just to name a few of the leading consequences. So by intervening with teens, we're able to catch people before those consequences really have a chance to fully accumulate, and so this is a population that would have a great benefit from stopping early.
Balintfy: Developed by smoking cessation experts, a free text message service provides 24/7 encouragement, advice and tips to teens trying to quick smoking. Dr. Hunt points out that this service, called SmokefreeTXT, is different than cessation treatments for adults.
Hunt: Teens have different smoking patterns than adults. Many teens don't smoke on a daily basis. They might have more intermittent smoking patterns, yet, they are still addicted to cigarettes. They still need assistance with quitting. And developmentally, teens have different needs than adults, and so the interventions that we offer may target a few different things, some different barriers among teens than we would among adults.
Balintfy: She adds that one way to make the program relevant to teens is to use mobile phones.
Hunt: In the words of one of our focus group teens, "Texting is my life." So their phones are really an extension of them and we thought what better way to connect teens who want to quit with proven tools and strategies that really make sense in the context of their everyday lives.
Balintfy: According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project's 2010 report on Teens and Mobile Phones, roughly 75 percent of 12-17 year-olds have a cell phone and 54 percent of them are text messaging.
Hunt: The evidence for text messaging changing behavior among teens is less clear at this point. It's still somewhat of an untested approach but there's every reason to believe given the engagement that teens already have with their mobile phones that this could have immense potential to change behavior.
Balintfy: For teens that want to kick off the New Year by quitting smoking, Dr. Hunt says there are two ways to sign up.
Hunt: Teens can go online to our website, which is teen.smokefree.gov, and on that website they'll see a place to enroll in the SmokefreeTXT program. If teens want to enroll on the go using their mobile phone, they can also text QUIT to the short code iQUIT which is 47848.
Balintfy: Again the website is teen.smokefree.gov or text QUIT to the short code: iQUIT or 47848. To learn more about the dangers of smoking and the latest research on smoking cessation and cancer prevention, visit www.cancer.gov. For NIH Radio, this is Joe Balintfy— NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Dr. Yvonne Hunt
Topic: smoking, teen smoking, cigarette, tobacco, tobacco control, smoking cessation, cessation, quit, quitting smoking,