Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A new "first-of-its-kind" initiative aims to keep kids from vaping, as e-cigarette use among high schoolers continues to soar.
The Truth Initiative has launched a text messaging program that helps teens to quit smoking e-cigarettes. It sends customized text messages to encourage would-be quitters ages 13 and over to kick the habit.
The program launched not only to give teens and young adults recommendations about quitting but as a resource for parents who want to help their children stop vaping.
The e-cigarette quit program has been combined with the existing This is Quitting and BecomeAnEX programs, both of which are digital quit programs designed to help people quit smoking cigarettes. Truth Initiative's research says that enrolling in BecomeAnEX quadruples a smokers chances of quitting.
Teens can also connect with online resources that help them quit vaping.
Along with the digital quit program, Truth Initiative also created the Safer ≠ Safe public awareness campaign to warn users about the misconceptions of e-cigarette smoking.
In December, Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams declared e-cigarette use a "public epidemic" in the U.S., saying that the time that there is a "need to protect our kids from all tobacco products, including all shapes and sizes of e-cigarettes."
"We have been very active in following the meteoric rise of e-cigarettes among young people, particularly Juul," Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, told UPI. "We've been very active in putting prevention messages out there for young people. We know 20 percent of high schoolers have used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, which is a bad idea."
Juul has an estimated 75 percent market share in the e-cigarette industry. One Juul pod has about 20 times the nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. And many of Juul's customers are young people.
On suspicion that Juul targeted underage customers, the FDA raided the e-cigarette giant's headquarters in search of marketing documents aimed at minors in October.
A month later, Juul agreed to shut down its social media campaigns and stop selling flavored pods in certain stores.
"We monitor social media all the time, and we started seeing a real increase in request from people who never intended to get addicted to Juul because a lot of them didn't even know there was nicotine in there, to begin with," Koval said. "They said, 'Hey, I didn't even know there was nicotine. How can I stop?'"
One study has linked e-cigarette smoking, or vaping, to increased stroke and heart attack risk.
Truth said the texting program already has nearly 25,000 subscribers, most of whom have set a date to quit.
"If you are having a craving, you can text us and we'll send you tips on how to get through it," Koval said. "We've had a great response."