National Cancer Institute Speaks Directly to Teens Using Texting and Social Media Technology

Most adults know by now that smoking cigarettes is caustic to our health, partially because of the warning information printed on cigarette boxes and the intense media buzz provided by anti-smoking agencies and the United States government. Despite all that we know about the dangers of smoking, the prospect of smoking nicotine cigarettes is still alluring for many emerging adolescents. According to recent data, a 2009 survey performed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “found that nearly half of high school students had tried cigarette smoking at some point. In 2009, more than 1 out of 4 high school kids were current tobacco users.” The American Lung Association did further research, based on a 2008 survey produced by the CDC, and found that amongst adults that were currently regular smokers, “85% started smoking regularly at age 21 or younger. And 68% started at age 18 or younger.”

To combat these statistics the National Cancer Institute has decided to confront teens thinking about taking up smoking or currently smoking, with a quitting program, Smokefree Teen. The program utilizes communication forums that teens typically use; the web, social media, and their phone. The institute created a texting support line where teens can text QUIT to iQUIT (47848), and they are sent daily helpful messages of ways to quit smoking; or they can go to the institutes website and receive support from a counselor (using instant messenger); or they can join an online support group of their peers through social websites Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

The institute’s message is clear, “We’re NOT going to tell you what to do,” but we are going to help you make the most informed choice about your health. The institute’s website addresses the moods, pressures and triggers that get teens smoking and keep them addicted. With teen-friendly communication devices such as, cartoons, texts, IM’s, and short Q&A lists, the National Cancer Institute hopes to get their message across.

For more on the National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree Teen program go to: or read the article this blog is referenced from “Quit-smoking Program for Teens Uses Tech Tools” published online by USA Today. (