Understanding the path to quitting and the opportunity space
In order to create a solution to quitting vaping we needed to understand more about the meaning and realities of vaping for young people. During in-depth, guided conversations, we talked to nearly 300 teens about their lives, vaping, and why they wanted to quit and what was hard about quitting, since many had tried, without support or success, before. From those conversations, we were able to develop a story, not necessarily representative of all teens—or even the majority—about the experience of vaping that would guide us in our design decisions.
Teen vaping most often begins in social situations, with young people often using a peer’s device when they vape for the first time. It often feels exciting at first; not only is it part of a shared social experience, but the high from the nicotine is changing the chemistry of the young teen brain. In the moment, though, it feels calming, exciting, dizzying—all at once.
As soon as a month after beginning to vape, many teens notice some negative effects such as craving it first thing in the morning, affecting their body in unwanted ways, or complicating their relationship with their parents. Dependency on vaping can create anxiety instead of reduce it, and managing anxiety is why many teens start to vape in the first place. Many young people feel stuck in a place where vaping is neither totally good nor totally bad—their dependency on the drug often outweighs their desire to quit. Because vaping is often a social activity, it may be even harder to continue on the quitting journey if a young person’s friends are still vaping. We heard about feelings of guilt, nervousness, embarrassment, feeling alone in the struggle to quit, and even capitulation—that vaping is worth it to take the edge off before a big test or a hit or two is socially acceptable at parties.
For teens who decide to quit—and many do try, even several times—they often piece together an ad hoc plan on their own. They gather tips from friends, do their own online research, and try to form their own support group. Some buy nicotine gum or lollipops to take the edge off. Some tell their best friends. The road to quitting is paved with good intentions and it’s also extremely lonely, which is likely why it can be a painful journey.
Many programs focus on prevention rather than offering coaching guides on how to quit. Quit the Hit infuses a social environment into the quitting process. The program addresses specific fears and hesitations teens have with traditional fear-based prevention programs. It cuts out the noise and provides relevant reasons to quit, peer support, educational fundamentals, and clinical support in a way that feels engaging, collaborative, and compassionate—like a breath of fresh air.