As the people who use vapes and the companies that make them become increasingly freaked out by the health effects of these relatively new products, the thought of quitting e-cigs sounds more reasonable. In a recent flurry of ominous decisions, even JUUL essentially admitted that its products are perhaps not much better for you than actually smoking. Amid what now feels more and more like a vaping-fiasco, programs to help people quit the thing that helped them quit cigarettes are starting to crop up.
Starting today, residents of Washington state can download a free program (can be used as a phone app or on a desktop) specifically targeted at quitting vapes. The program is made free by the state’s Department of Health, which worked with 2Morrow, Inc., a company that creates apps to help people do things like quit cigarettes, lose weight, and manage chronic pain, to develop the guide. While not a novel idea (people have been using programs to quit things for decades), it does appear to be one of the first programs designed to get people un-hooked from vaping.
The only evidence that people want something like this is anecdotal, Nick Fradkin, tobacco cessation consultant with the Washington Department of Health, tells VICE. The DoH started working on this project about a year ago, he adds, back when health officials first started to realize how rampant e-cigs (and JUULs, in particular) were among teens who’d never smoked cigarettes before. Now, the app’s release feels well-timed to the current period of vape-panic, as more people start to consider what it might feel like to stop ripping on their JUULs.
“About a year ago, we started getting more and more people using the smoking cessation app for vaping, or asking if they could,” Jo Masterson, co-founder of 2Morrow, Inc. tells VICE. The two programs—the one for vaping and the one for smoking—work in mostly the same way. They both employ something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which basically works by teaching people to recognize when they have an urge to vape and helps them develop the skill to push past that urge. Within the app, you can track how many times the urge to vape comes up, and how often you’re able to successfully ignore it. This kind of therapy hasn’t ever been tested on vaping, but studies on this method’s effectiveness in quitting cigarettes are largely positive, especially when compared to the effectiveness of more traditional, widely used quitlines.
Of course a huge difference between a vape habit and a cigarette one is that you can vape pretty much constantly. An increasingly popular type of post on the r/juul subreddit documents how shitty and difficult people are finding it to quit this habit that was, theoretically, meant to help them quit another one. Whether gentle nudges from an app can combat something as serious as associating happy memories with the JUUL remains to be seen; this program is a first of its kind. But, as Masterson says, 2Morrow, Inc. is hoping their program will soon spread outside of Washington (and perhaps even grow to a federal-use level). In any case, you can probably expect to see more programs like this as vaping inevitably goes the way of basically every other drug.
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