Nov. 9, 2021
Public health turns to TikTok to help teens escape e-cig dependence
My Life, My Quit™ offers free and confidential help for teens
As many teens return to school and face the social pressures that may make using e-cigarettes more tempting, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is teaming with Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, a family medicine physician with nearly 1 million followers on TikTok, to help combat a growing trend of e-cigarette dependence among teens who vape.
Data from the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey (MYTS) revealed that 70.4% of Minnesota teens who used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days reported signs of e-cigarette dependence. Looking at one specific sign of dependence, frequent use of e-cigarettes, both national and Minnesota data show that about a third of teens who use e-cigarettes are using them frequently – at least 20 days of the past 30. Specifically, 34.9% of teens nationally1 and 33.6% of teens in Minnesota2 who use e-cigarettes are using them frequently. In Minnesota, this is a significant increase, nearly doubling from the last survey in 2017.
While recent news at the national level focused on potentially encouraging data showing a lower percentage of teens using e-cigarettes overall, MDH is concerned about dependence among those teens who continue to use e-cigarettes.
“Teens are more susceptible to nicotine addiction due to their developing brains, and nicotine use during adolescence can have permanent impacts on learning, memory, attention and mood,” said MDH Senior Research Scientist Sharrilyn Helgertz. “Given the long-lasting impacts, it is concerning to see an increase in Minnesota teens reporting signs of nicotine dependence.”
In response, MDH is engaging teens where they are online: TikTok, with seven out of 10 teens using the popular social media app, according to 2020 data by Statista. In her videos, Dr. Leslie discusses how nicotine products like e-cigarettes can be harmful to teens’ developing brains and shares teen-focused resources like My Life, My Quit. My Life, My Quit is a program offered through MDH for teens looking to quit e-cigarettes or other commercial tobacco products.
“TikTok has been an outlet for me to break through the noise and reach young people with health information that is quick and simple to digest, and also entertaining,” says Dr. Leslie. “Highlighting resources like My Life, My Quit to help teens break free from nicotine dependence has been a natural fit.”
One promising finding is more than half of teens using commercial tobacco hope to quit, according to the MYTS survey, with 57.3% of students who currently use tobacco reported having intentions to quit, and 52.4% of students who currently use tobacco were interested in receiving help to quit if offered at no cost.
Dr. Leslie’s work supporting My Life, My Quit is helping connect teens to free quit support. My Life, My Quit provides free and confidential support. My Life, My Quit coaches can help teens develop a quit plan, cope with stress, learn about the harmful effects of nicotine and get ongoing support. Teens can chat with a coach online at MyLifeMyQuit.com or by texting “Start” to 36072. Schools interested in promoting My Life, My Quit can access information in MDH's online School E-cigarette Toolkit.
The MYTS has been conducted by MDH since 2000 to provide information about the commercial tobacco use of young people and to design and evaluate prevention efforts. Additional 2020 findings can be found at Data Highlights from the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey (PDF).
My Life, My Quit
My Life, My Quit is made available in Minnesota by MDH as part of the Quit Partner™ programs, Minnesota’s free way to quit smoking, vaping and chewing. My Life, My Quit is available to youth in 21 states. Thousands of teens nationally have joined My Life, My Quit for free, non-judgmental support, one-on-one help to quit, and easy-to-follow tips from friendly coaches.
Note for the media
MDH is committed to differentiating between traditional and commercial tobacco in communications. Commercial tobacco products are tobacco products manufactured and sold by the tobacco industry, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and chew. Commercial tobacco is different from traditional or sacred tobacco, also known as Cansasa, Asemaa or Kinnikinnick, which is used by American Indian communities for sacred purposes.
2 Minnesota Department of Health. Data Highlights from the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey (PDF)