State has texting programs to help young people stop ‘vaping;’ experts say only 5 of 100 smokers are able to quit on their own

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The abrupt change in the legal age to buy tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, has likely resulted in many to people 18, 19 and 20 being cut off from easy access to the products.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health offers several programs to help people of all ages quit smoking, and in an effort to help young people stop using e-cigarettes, it is promoting two free text programs designed with young people in mind. One, which is offered in partnership with the Truth Initiative, is called “This is Quitting” and the other is called “My Life, My Quit.”

“In light of a recent federal law increasing the age of legal tobacco sales to 21, we know many young people will need support giving up tobacco and e-cigarette products,” acting state Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said in a news release.

Legislation to raise the age from 18 to 21 to purchase tobacco products passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump Dec. 20. The Food and Drug Administration said on its website that day that the new age threshold was effective immediately.

To enroll in “This is Quitting,” participants should text “KENTUCKY” to 88709. The program is tailored to those between the ages of 13 and 24 and provides up to nine weeks of age-appropriate coaching.

This program offers one support text per day, leading up to the day the person quits, and for at least 60 days thereafter. Participants can also receive on-demand support for cravings, stress and setbacks in their quitting journey, says the release. And for those who are not yet ready to quit, the program will send at least four weeks of text messages to help them prepare for quitting.

“Many young people who started vaping now want to quit, but they don’t know how,” Dr. Amanda Graham, chief of innovations at Truth Initiative, said in the release. “Our program allows them to get support discreetly and anonymously without having to disclose to an adult that they are vaping.”

This is Quitting launched nationwide in January 2019 and has enrolled more than 70,000 teens and young adults, says the release, adding, “Peer-reviewed research on the program has revealed that more than 60 percent of participants reported they had reduced or completely stopped using e-cigarettes after just two weeks.”

In November, the state health department launched another resources to help teens quit vaping, smoking and using other tobacco products called “My Life, My Quit.”

To enroll in this program, individuals can text “START MY QUIT” to 855-891-9989 or call 1-800-891-9989 to be connected with a “quit coach” who will provide up to five confidential, free sessions through live texting, phone or online chat to help the teen create a personalized quit plan.

The state health department also offers a service called Quit Now Kentucky to help Kentuckians of all ages quit smoking. To learn more go to QuitNowKentucky.org, text QUITKY to 797979 or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

“Quit Now Kentucky is available to all ages, and provides coaching over the phone with additional support via text, email, or online chat,” Anya Weber, spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an e-mail. “Our trained coaches use proven methods to help participants prepare a quit plan, set a quit date, understand their tobacco-triggers, manage cravings, and get back on track after relapses. In some cases, they can also provide free nicotine quit medications like patches, lozenges, or gum.”

Ellen Hahn, a University of Kentucky nursing professor and the longtime leader in Kentucky tobacco-prevention efforts, and Audrey Darville, a tobacco treatment specialist at UK, told Kentucky Health News in an e-mail that it is important for Kentucky’s young people to reach out for help to quit smoking because fewer than five out of 100 people who try to quit without help are successful.

“Success will increase eight- to 10-fold if evidence-based counseling support and medication are used,” they said.

Hahn and Darville added that the change in the federal minimum legal age to 21 will require communities to increase access to tobacco treatment including all seven FDA approved smoking-cessation medications plus all forms of behavioral support (individual, group, online, telephone, text).

They added, “We know these methods work for tobacco users of all ages, and that counseling plus medication is the gold standard of effective treatment for tobacco dependence/nicotine addiction.”

More than 6 million U.S. middle and high school students are current users of tobacco products, and 5.3 million of them, or 85 percent, are using e-cigarettes, according to the latest annual National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The latest data for e-cigarette use by Kentucky teens, from 2018, shows it nearly doubled since 2016, with more than one in four high-school seniors and one out of seven eighth-graders reporting they used the devices, the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention study found.

A 2017 Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that 48 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 had ever used an e-cigarette.