American Lung Association campaign urges parents to talk about vaping with teens

The American Lung Association launched a vaping campaign in partnership with the Ad Council and created by Hill Holliday.

Parents always think their child won’t succumb to peer pressure. The American Lung Association’s latest PSA tells them to get their head out of the clouds.

The PSA aims to educate parents about the prevalence of teen vaping and equip them to talk to their kids about it. The spot shows parents with their head in a literal cloud and insisting that their kids would never vape, overlaid with teen vaping statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The best thing we can do is to help parents realize how widespread the vaping epidemic is and equip them to talk about it,” said Julia Fitzgerald, chief marketing officer at the American Lung Association. “We’re trying to address the amount of misinformation that parents had. Big tobacco has been marketing vaping as something that’s not harmful, so many parents didn’t have this on their radar as something they should be concerned about.”

The campaign was developed with the Ad Council and created pro bono by Hill Holliday. It will appear on TV, streaming, digital and out of home.

The American Lung Association and Ad Council also conducted research to inform this effort, interviewing hundreds of parents and teenagers. They found that 91% of parents said their teen didn’t vape. But, according to data from the CDC, 27% of youth were vaping regularly last year.

The PSA is specifically targeted to parents of middle schoolers, between ages 10 and 14. Fitzgerald said it’s important to start talking about vaping before kids hit high school and become ingrained in the culture of vaping.

In the interviews with parents and teens, the American Lung Association found teens in high school were more likely to defend vaping

“The culture of vaping has become so prevalent in high schools that if kids were already introduced to that culture sometimes they feel like they had to defend it, the behavior of their friends or their own behavior,” Fitzgerald said. “We need to reach the parents of children before they enter into that heavy duty culture.”

The effort also provides data about vaping and conversation guides for parents on TalkAboutVaping.org. The guide stresses that vaping is addictive and bad for one’s health. It also tells parents to discuss how vapes are marketed and how some tactics, like fruity flavors, are intentionally used to hook kids. The guides were developed with child psychologists, Fitzgerald said.

Alongside the PSA campaign, the American Lung Association is also doing outreach to schools and educators. The organization developed several online training programs for teachers and administrators and programs for students.

The student programs were meant as alternatives to punishment for students that are caught vaping. One program is a four-hour session meant as an alternative to suspension, another is a peer-to-peer program.

“Instead of punishing the kids for vaping, it explains that they’re being marketed to pulled into this,” Fitzgerald said. “The teacher or administration lets [the student] know what vaping is really doing to them and how they’re being sold the product by Big Tobacco.”

This year, there are many special circumstances to consider, like the COVID-19 pandemic and altered way kids are going back to school. 

Filming the PSA itself had a virtual twist. The organization chose actors that also knew about production and sent them the camera and recording equipment needed for the shoot, while the producers and director worked remotely, Fitzgerald said.

She also said students are under more stress than ever because of the events of this year and unusual back to school season.

“Stress is one of the triggers,” Fitzgerald said. “Kids trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and going back to school, so stress abounds. With the pandemic, lung health is more important than ever.”

This story first appeared on mmm-online.com.

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