The average age of initiation for smokers, meaning the first time they try a cigarette, is between 11 and 12. Ninety percent of current adult smokers are fully addicted by the time they reach age 19. Despite the small window of time between trying that first cigarette and becoming addicted, most tobacco cessation services are not aimed at young adults.
Diversion based programs exist but they have shown little to no impact on getting young adults to quit. They are often seen as a punishment. The CIGNAL seeks to provide a positive experience for young tobacco users ready to quit.
Modeled after and implemented by the highly successful Arizona Smokers’ Helpline (ASHLine), the CIGNAL will use the same proven approach but will direct callers under the age of 23 to specially trained youth coaches.
“The idea behind using youth quit coaches is simple,” says ASHLine Stephen Michael. “We’re using the same methodology as the ASHLine, but going at it in a way that the young smoker can relate to.” Challenges do exist with reaching young tobacco users. In Arizona, just over seventeen percent teens under the age of 18 use tobacco. Despite knowing the health effects; teens do continue to try tobacco due to peer pressure and/or curiosity.
“Our major challenge is relating to a group of young people who, while they smoke, do not consider themselves smokers,” says Courtney Ward, Tobacco Office Chief at the Arizona Department of Health Services. “To reach them we had to come up with messaging that they can relate to.”
A public service campaign that seeks to speak to young tobacco users through depictions of common phrases such as, “I only smoke when I’m at a party” or “I only smoke on the weekends” will also launch on August 12th to promote the CIGNAL.
The CIGNAL is a free service and be reached via the toll-free number 1-800-55-66-222. For callers under the age of 18, parental consent is not needed. Medications and other quit aids such as the patch, gum and lozenge will not be provide to anyone under 18. Teens interested in this method of quitting are encouraged to talk to their doctor. www.theCIGnal.com