The electronic cigarette is one of the most commonly used tobacco products among middle and high school students. Although viewed as safer compared to combusted tobacco products, like cigars and cigarettes, medical experts have warned that e-cigarettes can be dangerous to the youth. For example, since the human brain keeps developing until the age of 25, vaping can harm the part of the brain responsible for learning, attention, and memory. Many youths who also vape likewise smoke regular cigarettes.
Vaping Prevention Program Among High School Students
A new study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center revealed that a middle school vaping prevention program reduces the likelihood of e-cigarette use among high school students. Steven H. Kelder and the team wrote that 12 middle schools in Texas were included in their study. These schools participated in the pilot program called CATCH My Breath between 2016 and 2017. The program focuses on social cognitive theory comprising four interactive in-class modules, and is administered through social messaging (school posters), student-peer leaders, physical education teachers, and classroom teaching. The study appeared in the medical platform of Medical Xpress.
Designing the Program Based on Social Cognitive Theory
Social cognitive theory suggests that the youths' behavior is shaped by intrapersonal factors and environmental factors. Intrapersonal factors include outcome expectations while environmental factors include social reinforcement, health messaging, and peer role models. The program wanted youths to foster refusal skills and social competence so they can prevent smoking, especially in schools.
Among the 12 schools that participated, six served as control schools. The team designed the CATCH My Breath program in a way that would be easy for teachers to implement in a classroom setting. All the materials of the vaping prevention program were age-appropriate for middle and high school students and were also available online.
Kelder, who developed the vaping prevention program as part of this study at UT’s Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living, said that the program also contained practice- and theory-informed strategies that parents can use to better understand the e-cigarette epidemic. There is also a guide on how they can talk to their kids about it.
CATCH My Breath Components
There are six activities or components taught to students through four classroom lessons. Every lesson lasts for about 25 minutes. In the first activity, they are taught in a group discussion on the contents of electronic cigarettes. They are also taught about the short-term health consequences of vaping, such as nicotine dependence, and the age-of-sale restrictions and school policies regarding vaping.
The second component of the CATCH My Breath program is that students compare their expectations of their friends who use an e-cigarette with matching data on the prevalence of vaping. The purpose of this activity is to let them know that e-cigarette use is not normal behavior for middle school students.
Third, classroom teachers consider the motivations or reasons for vaping, then introduce positive alternatives. Fourth, the youth learn how motivations or reasons are established through environmental and social influences. This enables them to analyze advertisements about e-cigarettes and identify environmental and social influences on vaping in the community and school.
Fifth, the youth learn and eventually practice refusal skills as their way of resisting social influences in using e-cigarettes. They also role-play possible encounters with people who smoke in a social setting. Sixth, middle- and high-school students make a public commitment that they will stop vaping.
All of the lessons in the vaping prevention program were conducted by teachers who were trained in a webinar to implement the activities. Peer facilitators were also selected by their classmates and were trained to take part in the group discussion activities.
Results of the Intervention Program
Results show that the vaping intervention program had significant improvements in the vaping knowledge of youths and the perceived positive effect of not using electronic cigarettes. The team concluded that the vaping prevention program among youths reduces combustible tobacco product use.
Smoking and Vaping: Statistics
Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shared the number of cigarettes smoked per smoker per day in the US in the following years: 2000 (Male 19.50, Female 16.50), 2001 (Male 16.50, Female 16.00), 2002 (M 19.00, F 16.00), 2003 (M 18.00, F 16.00), 2004 (M 18.50, F 15.50), 2005 (M 18.00, F 15.00), 2006 (M 18.00, F 15.00), 2007 (M 18.00, F 15.00), 2008 (M 17.50, F 14.50), 2009 (M 17.00, F 14.50) 2009 (M 16.50, F 14.00), 2010 (M 16.50, F 14.00), 2011 (M 16.50, F 14.00), 2012 (M 15.50, F 14.00), 2013 (M 15.50, F13.50), 2014 (M15.00, F 12.00).
Meanwhile, the death rates from smoking by age worldwide in 2017 was 12.68 among those 15 to 49 years old, 92.91 in all ages, 224.56 among those 50 to 69 years old, and 841.82 for those 70 years old and above.
The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey published by the US FDA further shows a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students, attributing to 3.05 million high school students in the US using e-cigarettes.
Flavors of e-cigarettes were attributed to the increase of vaping among high school students. For instance, menthol-flavored e-cigarettes increased from 42.3% to 51.2% in one year alone (2017-2018). Another reason for the sharp increase in e-cigarette smokers among youth is the USB flash drive-like vapes. This includes JUUL, which became particularly popular among youths. However, these products contain high nicotine content and have appealing flavors. They can be used discreetly by teens because it can be easily concealed as a flash drive.
Factors That Influence Youth Tobacco Use
Among the factors that influence youth tobacco and e-cigarette use are low economic status, lack of parental involvement or support, low self-image or self-esteem, low levels of academic achievement, and role modeling from family or parents.
Preventing youth access to tobacco products and curbing the marketing of e-cigarette products can reduce tobacco and vape use among young students. Vaping prevention programs, such as the one introduced in the current study, can also protect the future generation as they are more educated on its risks and are trained on how to use refusal skills to resist other forms of tobacco use. Parents can also participate by being a good role model for their children and talk about ways to defend themselves against peer pressure.