Who: Lugei Juma, student, Toronto
Dr Bruce Baskerville, researcher, Waterloo
What: With Canadian Cancer Society funding, Dr Baskerville found an app developed by our Smokers’ Helpline team is effective in helping young people quit smoking.
Why: Helping young adults quit smoking is a priority since they likely will not suffer major smoking-related health problems if they quit early enough.
Lugei Juma started smoking at 15. What started off as a few cigarettes with friends eventually turned into an all-out addiction while working in the construction and restaurant sectors.
After nine years of smoking, Lugei knew he needed to make some changes to move forward in his career and his life. Quitting tobacco was a top priority.
“I wanted to go to college, pursue a career and focus on athletics, and smoking wasn’t aligned with those goals,” says Lugei. With the support of his family and friends, he stopped hanging around people who smoked and started exercising, eating well and meditating, and was able to quit smoking.
This is a familiar story for Dr Bruce Baskerville, a researcher at the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo. With funding from the Canadian Cancer Society, he led research focused on helping young people like Lugei quit smoking.
“Young adults have higher smoking rates than the general population, but if someone stops smoking before age 30 they are likely to not suffer any health problems related to smoking,” says Dr Baskerville.
Dr Baskerville’s team studied the effectiveness of an app, Break It Off, developed by the Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline team. The app was developed to offer younger smokers an effective and accessible tool to stop using tobacco.
“Social media and smartphones are where young people are and how they use information,” says Dr Baskerville. “We want to test whether these tools can be used for quitting smoking.”
Dr Baskerville’s team found that young adults who used the app were more successful in quitting smoking than people in the same age group who used a more traditional telephone quit line.
Dr Baskerville stresses that a telephone quit line is still an essential service, and social media and apps complement this service so that more people can be reached by targeting a demographic more likely to embrace technology.
“This is a new frontier and new territory. We want to see how these new innovations and interventions can best be used to be effective,” says Dr Baskerville.
Lugei agrees that social media can be an effective tool. “It’s important for the Canadian Cancer Society to fund research like this,” he says. “My generation is tech savvy and constantly using social media, so this technology can really target youth who need help quitting.”
Lugei is now in his final year of college and captain of the varsity cross-country running team. He currently works for Leave the Pack Behind, a college and university smoking cessation program, and he hopes to be a role model for young people who are trying to quit smoking.
"Smoking is like a relationship,” says Lugei. “You may think you’re in love with it and that you need it, but if it isn’t making you a better person, it’s not a positive impact on your life.”
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