36368 Creating Innovative Strategies to Reach the Young Military Tobacco User

Gabrielle Kirk, MPH and Paul Fitzpatrick, MA, Communications Division, Defense Health Agency, Falls Church, VA

Background:  Tobacco use is high in the military for a number of reasons, including a long history of tobacco tolerance and discounted tobacco pricing on military installations.  As a result of its complete incompatibility with the standards of the military and negative effect on force readiness, tobacco use remains a concern in the Department of Defense.  

Program background:  Quit Tobacco-UCanQuit2.org is the tobacco counter-marketing and education program for the U.S. military, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. Launched in 2007, the program’s mission is to help U.S. service members quit using tobacco. The program can share best practices in reaching an audience with a tobacco use rate higher than the U.S. population (25% military smokers compared to 20% civilian, 13% military smokeless tobacco users compared to 2% civilian). UCanQuit2.org offers an assortment of tools and resources on how and why to quit tobacco. Quit Tobacco depends on partnerships with health promotions staff at military installations around the world to distribute branded products to spread awareness of the available tobacco cessation materials. 

Evaluation Methods and Results:  Quit Tobacco resources were created to address challenges for service members trying to quit. Additionally, because of the nature of the military population, they may not be exposed to national/state/local tobacco cessation programs, so we aim to get our messages to them in the places they are looking. - Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard installation partners around the world can order free promotional materials to be sent to medical and dental facilities, clinics, and wellness centers on military installations. (2014: 561 orders)  - Annual events with campaign materials including posters, "drop in" articles that can be published in installation newsletters/newspapers or printed as-is for distribution and social media icons, graphics and posts. (5 campaigns/ year) - UCanQuit2.org Resource Library: 72 current fact sheets  - UCanQuit2.org Live Chat: Offers 24/7/365 trained tobacco cessation coaching: (2014: 2,675 chats) - SmokefreeMIL:  Confidential 6-8 week texting support program offers 24/7 encouragement and advice to help smokers quit smoking. (2014: 1,097 users) - Digital Media Advertising:  Geotargeted and keyword specific media buys (2014: 45,955,559 impressions)

Conclusions:  Decreasing the tobacco use rate in military population is challenging for a number of reasons. Some are the same as other audiences, though certain things are unique to the military, including pride, stress, history and culture. Quit Tobacco addresses those challenges by creating tools and resources tailored to the military population.

Implications for research and/or practice:  Quit Tobacco uses the Transtheoretical behavioral change model to guide the program. Based on the theory we work to inspire the service members thinking about quitting to make the decision to quit and then facilitate their quit. The Quit Tobacco program uses multiple tactics to reach our goals: awareness campaigns (social media, digital advertising, and targeted military television advertising), quit tools and resources (web/mobile tools), plus partnerships with military installations that further our reach and have the opportunity to interact in person with our target audience of service members.