Southern Nevada Uses Social Media to Fight Teen Nicotine Use

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At A Glance

As of March 2016, Southern Nevada Health District’s (SNHD) BreakDown educational campaign about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and the use of flavored tobacco in hookahs attracted more than 2,400 social media followers and 27,000 web video views. SNHD created the educational campaign for teens to counter the popularity of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products smoked using hookahs. BreakDown uses an online training, web videos, and other social media content to help youth promote nicotine-free living among their peers.

By Malcolm Ahlo

Public Health Challenge

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking among teens has decreased from 14% (2007) to 7% (2013) in southern Nevada. However, e-cigarette use has nearly tripled among the same population (from nearly 5% in 2013 to 13% in 2014). A CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from 2013 noted this rise “could be due to an increase in marketing, availability, and visibility of these … products.” On social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, youth encounter messages promoting nicotine-containing products. Sometimes, this information is misleading and can encourage teens to view e-cigarettes and the use of flavored tobacco in hookahs as safer than cigarettes. To counter these messages, SNHD needed a strategy to appeal to teens that would expose the health risks of emerging nicotine products.


With support from CDC, SNHD staff launched BreakDown—an online educational campaign designed to help youth promote nicotine-free living. A key component of the campaign involved recruiting “influencers,” or teens with large social media followings, to share smoke-free messages among their peers. SNHD used an online training to help these influencers understand the dangers and myths surrounding e-cigarettes and hookah and how they could use social media to raise awareness. BreakDown web videos and other social media content focused on nicotine prevention were also created for influencers to easily share with their social media networks.

I would have not heard about this movement if it weren't for a social media re-tweet by my friend online. I'm glad I was exposed to this movement - very cool!
- Southern Nevada teenager


By recruiting influencers to help share BreakDown’s educational content, SNHD has been able to establish credibility with youth and reach large groups of teens with its online nicotine prevention campaign. As of March 2016, BreakDown has attracted more than 2,400 social media followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Additionally, BreakDown web videos about the health risks of e-cigarettes and myths surrounding hookah use have collectively generated more than 27,130 views. Other BreakDown social media messages related to nicotine prevention have also received 287,000 hits. To date, 1,113 southern Nevada teens have taken the educational campaign’s online training to learn how they can help promote nicotine-free living among their peers using social media.

What's Next

Using the Web and social media can be an effective way to reach large teen audiences with nicotine prevention messaging. SNHD will continue to update and monitor the BreakDown website and other social media sites daily. This includes scheduling new posts about health issues related to nicotine use, hosting contests, and responding to fan comments. SNHD will also continue to:• Recruit individuals to educate other teens about the dangers of smoking and nicotine use;• Develop culturally appropriate messages that fit with current youth trends, language, and style; and• Promote BreakDown’s online training and educational content through paid web and social media ads.

Find Out More

Community groups working to help youth develop and maintain healthy lifestyles can use the popularity of social media to educate teens on nicotine-free living and other health topics. However, this strategy requires constant monitoring and customization. To keep followers and potential fans engaged, organizations must update websites with posts often. Teen involvement is also important to content creation and promotion. To check out SNHD’s BreakDown campaign, visit


Malcolm Ahlo
Southern Nevada Health District
330 S. Valley View Blvd

Las Vegas, NV 89127
Phone: 702-759-1265

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Web site


The findings and conclusions in this success story are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the funding agencies or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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