Smoking App for Teens 

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E-cigarettes are one of the many issues addressed in the Tobacco-Free Teens app developed at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “What we are trying to say to teens is that you might as well avoid trying any of the cigarettes, or small cigars, or nicotine delivery devices, such as e-cigarettes,” explained Alexander V. Prokhorov, MD, PhD, Director of the Tobacco Outreach Program, Co-director of the e-Health Technology Program, and Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“Using a nontobacco product that does not have all the tar and all those carcinogens and irritants, certainly puts you in a sort of less dangerous situation,” said Dr. Prokhorov. “But you have to be aware of the fact that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and nicotine leads to nicotine dependence, because it was shown very convincingly by researchers that nicotine is just as addictive as cocaine and marijuana and nicotine dependence can be your problem for the rest of your life if you aren’t able to get rid of it.”

The new app teaches that, “Both physical and mental performance are compromised if you are a smoker,” Dr. Prokhorov said. “The myth is that smoking helps you concentrate. Well it does maybe for the short-term, but if you have nicotine dependence and you don’t have that cigarette, you can’t think about anything else, but having another cigarette. There goes all your concentration and you start experiencing those withdrawal symptoms that unfortunately show up much quicker than we thought.”

Inspired by ASPIRE

The Tobacco-Free Teens app was largely drawn from MD Anderson’s ­ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience), an online tobacco prevention and cessation program targeted to middle and high school students. “The program is not designed just for smokers or for spit tobacco users. It is designed for everybody. So if you are a nonsmoker, you still can learn skills to be a good advocate,” said Dr. Prokhorov.

“ASPIRE is an evidence-based program. It is featured in the Cochrane Review favorably,” said Dr. Prokhorov. “ASPIRE has been reviewed by the National Cancer Institute and is now included in the Research Tested Intervention Programs (RTIPS) database. So we are pretty confident that ASPIRE is a working program with a strong prevention potential.”

ASPIRE can be accessed at, and the Tobacco-Free Teens app is available for free on the Apple iTunes Store. ■

Disclosure: Dr. Prokhorov reported no potential conflicts of interest. 

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