April 6, 2023
MDH encourages teens to ‘Call Norm’
New ‘Hey Norm’ campaign aims to reduce youth e-cigarette use; includes website and hotline to help teens have the awkward ‘vape talk’ with friends
To combat the tobacco industry’s use of marketing tactics like celebrity endorsements and the use of flavors that appeal to youth, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has launched “Hey Norm,” a creative, relatable marketing campaign intended to engage teens about the issue of vaping.
According to the 2022 Minnesota Student Survey, about 14% of Minnesota’s 11th grade students and more than 2% of middle school students use e-cigarettes. This e-cigarette use exposes these students to the harmful effects of commercial tobacco and the potential for a life-long nicotine habit.
“We know that nicotine found in e-cigarettes is highly addictive and can lead to significant physical and mental health impacts,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “Teens know some of the harmful side effects, but they may not actively seek out information, and they may not feel comfortable talking about nicotine use with friends or trusted adults. We hope this campaign prompts them to learn more and share that knowledge with their friends.”
Picking up on the popular “low-budget infomercial” approach, the campaign encourages teens to call or text Norm at 1-833-HEY-NORM to get advice about how to start “the vape talk” with their peers. There’s also a website, Room to Breathe, with relevant data and resources about the harms of nicotine and vaping, ways to get involved and access to quit support tailored for teens. The anti-vaping campaign is featured in mobile billboards, bulletins, posters, transit system signage, online video, social content and streaming audio.
“Research shows us that today’s youth are all about acceptance and prefer not to judge or confront others, but they do feel very protective of their friends and want to be advocates for them, especially in dangerous situations,” said Madelyn Fisher, an Owatonna high school student and member of the Minnesota Youth Advisory Council. “Norm helps us have those awkward conversations around vaping and taps into teens’ protective nature, helping us become ambassadors on this issue for our friends.”
The campaign highlights the dangers of vaping, which are often underestimated. The truth is that e-cigarette aerosol contains harmful chemicals including ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavorings (which the Tobacco Industry uses to market heavily to teens) such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals; and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.