Health & Science

Anti-Smoking Advocates Adopt New Methods As E-Cigarettes Gain Popularity

As new forms of nicotine and tobacco become popular among teenagers, new teaching materials are needed.

MD Anderson’s web-based anti-smoking interactive, called “ASPIRE,” is found in hundreds of classrooms across the United States, and as e-cigarettes become more and more popular among teenagers, health advocates are having to update some of the program’s techniques to curb usage.

The interactive, not quite a video game and not quite a movie, takes students along on a story where they play a character and make decisions.

In its latest iteration, ASPIRE 2.0, researchers say they have added more information on e-cigs and other non-cigarette forms of tobacco that are popular among teenagers.

Delia Thibodeaux is the health curriculum director at Westside High School. She said for her students the additional information is more relevant than campaigns purely about traditional forms of tobacco.

“They’ll say ‘Oh, Miss Thibodeaux, I didn’t know hookah was bad for you, I didn’t know e-cigarettes was bad for you, I didn’t know they would do this to you, would do that to you,’ and so, it really opens their eyes,” Thibodeaux said.

Results of a study on ASPIRE published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research showed the program was effective in preventing teens from taking up smoking, with 1.9% percent of the students who used ASPIRE beginning to smoke compared to 5.8% of students in a comparison group.

Researchers did not find a significant trend of students quitting smoking after ASPIRE, which the authors attribute to a small sample size of current smokers. However, the available data contributed “partial evidence” that the program could encourage students to quit. 

This article has been updated to reflect additional academic studies on ASIPRE.

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Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is a senior producer at Houston Public Media. He cut his teeth at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, MA and at WBUR in Boston. His work has appeared on various public radio programs and podcasts including Texas Standard, Here and Now, and Marketplace. Davis is a graduate...

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