Background: One in four high school seniors smokes cigarettes. Startling new evidence from the Surgeon General’s Report details the destructive trajectory of teen smokers, and the enormous health consequences they will incur. Unless efforts are made to help them quit, most will continue smoking into adulthood. Evidence shows many teens express a desire to quit smoking, but only a small percentage manages to quit successfully. More than 75 percent of teen smokers will continue smoking into adulthood, despite intentions to quit. Additionally, research shows that teens are particularly susceptible to the addictive properties of nicotine, creating a lifelong dependence for many to combat. Intervention at this critical point is needed to provide evidence-based cessation resources to support teens that want quit but don’t have the tools to do so. In order to interrupt this lethal smoking trajectory, the Tobacco Control Research Branch (TCRB) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched the Smokefree Teen initiative in December 2011.
Program background: In a bold departure from conventional cessation treatment, Smokefree Teen leverages mobile and social media tools to connect teen smokers with evidence-informed cessation resources. Recent data from Pew Internet and American Life Project show that nearly 1 in 3 teens age 14-17 have a smartphone. In addition, 73 percent of online teens 12-17 use social networking sites. Smokefree Teen is distinct from many tobacco- and teen-oriented initiatives because it capitalizes on the potential for mobile and social media to encourage and support smoking cessation. Smokefree Teen aims to help teens quit smoking on their own terms using a suite of highly interactive resources. Specifically, Smokefree Teen features: teen.smokefree.gov, a dynamic, teen-speak website; SmokefreeTXT, a free text messaging program that provides 24/7 encouragement, advice, and tips to quit smoking; QuitSTART, a free mobile intervention app featuring cessation tips, tracking, mood management tools, games and community support; and lastly, the Smokefree Teen Network which consists of a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
Evaluation Methods and Results: This presentation will discuss the core components of Smokefree Teen and highlight initial uptake data. Currently, SmokefreeTXT has enrolled 6,057 subscribers since October 2011 and teen.smokefree.gov has received 23,619 page views since December 2011. In the month of February 2012, Smokefree Teen Facebook received 9 million impressions and Tumblr garnered 682 page views. In order to reach this socially complex and technologically savvy population, Smokefree Teen has employed a diverse digital strategy that has thus far remained absent from most traditional cessation services. Additional usage data, content strategy, and details of these technologies will be illuminated.
Conclusions: The data shows an upward trend in Smokefree Teen reach and engagement across all platforms.
Implications for research and/or practice: New technologies offer great potential to impact health awareness, behavior change, and social support among teens. However, they can also create unforeseen obstacles to engage an already hyper-engaged audience. The presentation will illustrate these barriers and showcase the continued need for seamless resource integration into teens’ daily lives, in order to accelerate health behavior change.