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A Hummel Report Investigation

Speaking Their Language

Despite all of the public education and shifting social mores, smoking is still attractive to some teenagers. And while Rhode Island has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country for young people, The Department of Health has launched an initiative aimed at helping 13-18-year-olds stop using tobacco: an interactive texting program that’s the first of its type in the country.

Click here for more information about T2BX.


Despite the warnings.
Despite the messages.
Despite all of the public education, teenagers are still smoking.
The good news is: Rhode Island has the second lowest percentage nationwide of teenage smokers - at 8 percent.
But how to get the anti-tobacco message to them? Especially if they’re trying to quit? Well,  if you have a teenager, you know one of the best ways - is to text them.
Collins: ``We know text message is a teen’s primary mode of communication. so I really wanted to do something with text message that would deliver encouragement and education, to the remaining 8 percent of Rhode Island youth who smoke about quitting.’’
Erica Collins helped develop a program for The Rhode Island Department of Health called T2BX - in texting parlance:  Text to Be an Ex.
The interactive program is made possible by a grant from CVS Health through The United Way and is the first of its kind in the country.
Collins: ``This text message program is completely unique. There are other text message programs where you can receive help and encouragement for all sorts of things. But the thing that makes this one different is that it’s tailored to the needs of the smoker, and it’s two-way, so they can have a conversation and a dialogue with a trained tobacco-treatment specialist.’’
Boles Welch: ``When you enroll, you immediately will get five back-to-back text messages from the program saying hey, and it’s all to introduce the program.’’
Eric Boles-Welsh is the Tobacco Control Program Manager at the Department of Health and has overseen T2BX since it was launched in January.
Boles Welsh: ``What we found was that youth wanted to know about the program before they start telling us about themselves, so we can develop a relationship with them.’’
The program was 2 1/2 years in the making and the Department engaged Rescue Social Change, national experts on changing high risk behavior. The company did research and focus groups in high schools across Rhode Island.

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