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Douglas County Health Officials Use Texting Service To Help Young People Quit Vaping

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You may have heard of programs that help people quit smoking. But what about one aimed at teenagers who want to quit vaping?

Health groups in Douglas County have partnered with a national program called “This Is Quitting” by the nonprofit Truth Initiative. The texting service is designed for young people who want to quit vaping.

Health officials say they’re concerned that e-cigarettes are creating a new generation of smokers.

“One JUUL pod contains about 20 cigarettes-worth of nicotine,” Bailey Burkhalter of Douglas County Public Health Network says. “That’s a lot of nicotine and it’s very addictive. So there’s a concern that if [young people] start with vaping products, that they could move on to traditional tobacco products.”

Then there’s the additional concern about potential lung damage. Nationally, more than 2,000 e-cigarette users have developed a severe lung illness and nearly 40 have died. Researchers still don’t know exactly what is causing the disease — which they’ve compared to chemical burns — but they recently discovered a key ingredient that has appeared in every case: vitamin E acetate.

Burkhalter says the national outbreak has made this service even more crucial for local youth. The process is simple; for people under 18 in Douglas County, they can text VAPEFREEDC to 8-8-7-0-9.

If you’re outside Douglas County, you can text DITCHJUUL to the same number.

“There are certain things they can text, like ‘stress’ or ‘crave’ if they're having some problems,” Burkhalter says. “And they'll get more encouraging messages and tips and strategies to help them.”

Users can also tell the program when they want to quit. As they get closer to that date, the program increasingly sends them words of support.

The Douglas County groups — including the health network, the Blue Zones Project, and CHI Mercy Health — reached out to Truth Initiative to develop their own texting code so they could track local data. That way they could see how many local young people want to quit vaping. They launched the one-year program in October this year, so it’s still in the beginning stages.

Adults who want to quit vaping can participate in the Oregon Quit Line by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.