Minnesota Makes use of TikTok to Cease Teenagers Vaping Amid Stories of E-cig Dependency

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is turning to TikTok social media app to encourage teens to stop vaping.

The department works with the popular TikToking family doctor Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, who has nearly 1 million followers and shares information and resources on how young people can quit smoking, as reported by KEYC News.

Leslie regularly goes to TikTok to share medical facts and information, often focusing on vaping. The doctor previously shared content from the MDH partnership, including information about the My Life program, My Quit, which provides anonymous help to teenagers who want to quit smoking.

“TikTok was a way for me to break the noise and reach young people with health information that is quick and easy to digest and also entertaining,” Leslie told KEYC. “Highlighting resources like My Life, My Quit to help teenagers break free from nicotine addiction was a natural addition.”

Although traditional smoking rates among young people have declined in recent years, e-cigarettes are still alive. According to the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey (MYTS), 19.3 percent of high school students had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days.

TikTok has seen an increase in “trendy” vape pens among young people, including the popular geek bars. According to research in Tobacco Control magazine, TikTok videos often show viewers vaping in a positive light.

However, the concern concerns not only the number of teenagers who smoke e-cigarettes, but also their dependence on them.

70.4 percent of those who used e-cigarettes reported signs of addiction, according to the MYTS study. 33.6 percent of teenagers in Minnesota who use e-cigarettes use e-cigarettes frequently, almost twice as much as in 2017, according to the survey.

“Teenagers are more prone to nicotine addiction because of their developing brains, and nicotine use during adolescence can have lasting effects on learning, memory, attention and mood,” said MDH Senior Research Scientist Sharrilyn Helgertz. “Given the long-term effects, it is worrying to see an increase in Minnesota teenagers reporting signs of nicotine addiction.”

Unsurprisingly, the MDH is leaning towards TikTok to encourage the youth population to stop vaping; The app has an estimated 25 percent of users between the ages of 10 and 19.

The MDH uses social media to promote the My Life, My Quit program, which enables teenagers to access free help and coaching online via SMS, chat, or phone.

However, things look hopeful, as 57.3 percent of Minnesota students in the MYTS study said they intend to stop using all tobacco products in the next 30 days or later.

Newsweek has reached out to Leslie for a comment.

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