Case Study

Stopping Teen Vaping

The Challenge

New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene enlisted Zebra Strategies to test e-cigarette prevention campaigns targeted at teenage New Yorkers. We aimed to understand teenagers’ vaping habits, what factors motivate them to begin vaping, and what would deter them from starting or continuing to vape.

"Don't Get Hooked"

"Don't Get Hooked"

Our Initial Findings

We conducted four focus groups, consisting of teenagers aged 13–18, living within the five boroughs. These groups were separated by age group (13–15 and 16–18) and how favorably or unfavorably the participants viewed vaping.

A detailed discussion surrounding participants’ vaping habits, and their knowledge of vaping devices and the associated health risks, was followed by testing five e-cigarette prevention campaigns. Several key insights were learned:

  • Vapes are easily obtainable for teenagers, with age restrictions easy to get around
  • There is vague awareness that vapes are not healthy, but knowledge often did not go beyond knowing that nicotine is addictive
  • Vaping is incredibly widespread and popular, with estimations that more than half the students at schools vape, starting in middle school
  • The most common reason to try vaping was “to be cool” after seeing friends doing it

Actionable Insights

This research, combined with ad testing, provided insight on how to create a campaign that accurately and effectively informs teenage New Yorkers about the risks of vaping, persuades them to care, and motivates them to change their behavior.

Based on our learnings, we recommended that campaigns remind teenagers of the anti-smoking campaigns from their childhoods, which participants all cited as successful deterrents.

Since receiving Zebra Strategies’ report, DOH has issued a press release, sounding the alarm on e-cigarette use among NYC teenagers. The Governor also announced an emergency executive action to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

Ad Campaign Press Release