Social Media Helps AZ Teens Quit Smoking

By Chrisanne Grise 06/12/12

The state's teen smoking rate has dropped 11% over two years, thanks to a variety of online tools.

Breaking the habit. Photo via

Thousands of Arizona teens are giving up or avoiding cigarettes, and the state's Department of Health Services (AZDHS) mainly credits social media for the largest drop in teen smoking of any state in the country. The rate is down 11% over the last two years, which translates to about 10,000 fewer young smokers. "We reach them where they are…which is online, Facebook, we tweet, make use of social media," says Wayne Tormala, Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease at AZDHS. "We use the message of addiction which we found is one thing—they don’t want to be addicted, they don’t want to be controlled by something else." In addition to regular tweets and Facebook posts publicizing the dangers of cigarettes and tobacco, the Arizona Smokers' Helpline—funded through AZDHS—has launched a Facebook and iPhone app named "Call It Quits," allowing users to set up online support groups of friends and family for instant encouragement, log goals and earn badges for their achievements. But traditional offline methods have also helped spread the word; back in March, middle and high school students across the state participated in presentations, demonstrations and a "Stomp Out Tobacco" Walk/Run for the state's 17th annual Kick Butts Day. Tormala also suggests that the rising costs of cigarettes is a factor in the decrease in teens tobacco use. He says a pack-a-day smoker can spend up to $3,000 a year—out of many teens' budgets.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.