MDH turns to TikTok to assist teenagers break from e-cig dependence

MANKATO, Minnesota (KEYC) – The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) works with Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, a GP with nearly 1 million followers on TikTok, teamed up to tackle the growing trend of e-cigarette addiction among young people who vape.

Data from the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey (MYTS) showed that 70.4% of teenagers in Minnesota who used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days reported signs of e-cigarette addiction.

Looking at one specific sign of addiction, e-cigarette frequent use, both national and Minnesota data show that around a third of teens who use e-cigarettes use e-cigarettes frequently.

Specifically, 34.9% of teenagers nationally and 33.6% of Minnesota teenagers who use e-cigarettes use e-cigarettes frequently. In Minnesota, this is a significant increase, almost doubling from the last survey in 2017.

While recent national news has focused on potentially encouraging data showing that overall a lower percentage of teenagers use e-cigarettes, MDH is concerned about the addiction of teenagers who continue to use e-cigarettes.

“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-lasting effects, it is worrying that an increasing number of teenagers in Minnesota are reporting signs of nicotine addiction.”

For this reason, MDH is committed to young people with a different approach: TikTok,

According to Statista data for 2020, seven out of ten teenagers use the popular social media app.

In her videos, Dr. Leslie on how nicotine products like e-cigarettes can be harmful to teenage brain development and shares teen-focused resources like My Life, My Quit, a program offered by MDH for teenagers wanting to quit e-cigarettes, and others commercial tobacco products.

“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,” said Dr. Leslie. “Highlighting resources like My Life, My Quit to help teenagers break free from nicotine addiction was a natural addition.”

One promising finding is that, according to the MYTS survey, more than half of teenagers who use commercial tobacco hope to help quit smoking if offered for free.

Dr. Leslie’s work in support of My Life, My Quit is helping connect teenagers with free support. My Life, My Quit offers free and confidential assistance.

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