AZ had the biggest % decrease in teen smoking rates in the country according to the new CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey this week. Smoking rates among AZ teens dropped 12% in the last couple of years- while rates generally stayed flat across the country. That’s 11,000 fewer teen tobacco users between 2009 and 2011. About half of the teenagers in AZ that smoke tried to quit in the last year too.
We attribute our success to an array of evidence-based interventions that our statewide team has implemented over the last 3 years or so. We did test marketing of messages with teen focus groups about 5 years ago- developed a strategic plan right after that and then implemented our new evidence based program for teen prevention in early 2009. These efforts include the successful youth prevention campaign www.venomocity.com and the launch of the statewide youth coalition Students Taking a New Direction www.standaz.com
Venomocity focused on the fact that tobacco is addicting- and that addiction controls you. Teens don’t like to be controlled. So, instead of telling them not to smoke, we let them know that tobacco is addictive, it’ll addict them if they start, that addiction will then control them- threatening their goal of self-determination. Then, we meet them where they are- via the facebook, twitter, and other social media.
This work goes to show you that careful research, strategic planning and creative implementation, along with continuous evaluation to make corrections works!