Every May 31st is World No Tobacco Day, a moment when advocates, public health practitioners, and leaders around the world come together to recognize the harms of using tobacco and nicotine products and encourage people to quit for good. Empowering communities with knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about their health is a collective effort. In New Hampshire (NH), there are many resources and supports available to guide youth throughout their nicotine cessation journey–they are not alone!
This World No Tobacco Day 2023, we invite you to view a recent Facebook Live following a conversation with Julie Yerkes, Prevention Programs Manager at JSI, and Martha Bradley, Senior Consultant at JSI, as they discuss current tobacco prevention efforts in NH. Their conversation highlights the importance of tobacco prevention and cessation work and looks at the changing landscape over the past few decades.
Importance of Tobacco and Nicotine Prevention Efforts
During the past quarter century (since 1998), the NH Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program (TPCP) has made great progress in reducing the burden of tobacco use and tobacco-related health disability and disease. Due to coordinated, comprehensive tobacco control measures, the prevalence of smoking amongst young adults has dropped 11.4% from 2000 to 2020. Despite significant progress, tobacco remains the leading cause of disability, death, and disease for adults in the United States (U.S.), and its impacts are disproportionate. Some communities are particularly vulnerable, namely those living with a substance use disorder (SUD) or a mental health (MH) condition and those with lower income and educational attainment.
Considerable progress has been made in reducing cigarette smoking among our nation’s youth. However, the tobacco product landscape continues to evolve to include a variety of tobacco and nicotine products, including smoked, smokeless, and electronic products, such as e-cigarettes (vapes). Marketing is often geared towards youth, with flavors and colorful packaging that appeal to a younger demographic. Aside from alcohol, nicotine is the most commonly used substance among young adults in the U.S.
The most recent national survey of youth risk behaviors reported that 2% of high school students smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days, while 14.1% used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. The U.S. and NH have seen a significant decline in e-cigarette use since the pandemic. While less high school students in NH reported using an electronic vapor product, decreasing from 33.8% in 2019 to 16.2%% in 2021, this is still more than the national number of 14.1%.
Despite the commonly held belief that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco, the health risks for e-cigarettes are plentiful. Nicotine concentrations are far greater in vaping products than in traditional cigarettes, making them a poor substitute for those aiming to quit. Nicotine also has profound impacts on developing brains. When young people use substances at an early age, they are training their brains to need and desire those substances to feel normal. While this is happening, the substance is changing the parts of the brain that relate to memory, affecting mood and influencing motivation–ultimately making it harder to stop.
Current Tobacco and Nicotine Cessation Efforts in NH
Community-based Tobacco Prevention: This initiative started with a desire to implement a public health intervention SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment) into the public school system. The screening tool is meant to be used as part of routine medical care, and focuses on substance misuse and mental health risk. Necessary referrals and connections to community support are made if needed. Due to a variety of factors, SBIRT did not gain enough traction to fully integrate into the school system. However, through a contract with the Nashua Prevention Coalition, The Partnership @drugfreeNH has established working relationships with school personnel to look at how to better support the behavioral health needs of youth. The focus has been on supporting protective factors such as school culture and connection as a way to mitigate risky behaviors. Showing youth and young adults that you care is the first step in developing rapport, building trust, and creating positive relationships.
Save Your Breath (SYB) Campaign: This vaping prevention initiative was funded by the NH TPCP to reach NH youth where they are on social and digital media with messaging on youth vaping prevention and cessation. There is an acknowledgment that social pressure and availability can make it difficult to say no, or fully quit. SYB provides topical information on the risks of vaping and promotes a youth cessation program called My Life My Quit, which offers text and chat services just for youth and young adults. This campaign also empowers adults to provide support for the young people in their lives, through compassion and connecting them to necessary resources.
As caring adults, we must be engaged in these conversations with our youth. Modeling safe behavior, and ensuring the young adults in our lives know the risks of e-cigarettes gives them agency to make informed decisions about their health. Learn more about tobacco and vaping facts and resources for parents and caregivers.
Tobacco Prevention and Treatment Resources
For the youth in our communities, there are resources and supports available to guide them throughout their cessation journey–they are not alone!
- My Life, My Quit – Help for teens who decide they want to quit vaping. Text “Start My Quit” to 36072 or call to talk with a coach who is ready to listen and cheer you on.
- QuitNow-NH – Serves the general public, tobacco control professionals, educators, health care providers, physicians, and others who want to quit tobacco use, help another person quit, and reduce tobacco’s heavy toll on NH.
- QuitWorks-NH – A free, evidence-based quitting tobacco service for health care providers to use as a tool to aid the cessation efforts of their patients.
- Save Your Breath – A social marketing campaign to prevent vaping initiation among youth aged 13-18 in NH.
- Screen & Intervene: NH SBIRT – Supports the implementation of SBIRT throughout NH as an effective prevention, intervention, and public health strategy in multiple settings across the lifespan.
- NH Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program (TPCP) – Dedicated to preventing NH youth from beginning to use tobacco, eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, promoting quitting tobacco among people who use tobacco, and prioritizing efforts to reach those most affected by tobacco.