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Students Create App to Help Teens Quit Vaping

Dec. 20, 2019 — A conversation Erick Jara ’20 had with a friend on campus put a human face on the issue of teen vaping and motivated him to do something. “My friend said, ‘I really want to quit, but I don’t think I can,’ ” Jara said.

Jara and his classmates Ayleen Cameron ’20 and Shameek Hargrave ’20 are developing “EscapeVape” — a mobile app to help teenagers quit vaping — as an independent study project for the Rhodes Fellowship Course in Social Entrepreneurship. 

The two-year fellowship course was created in 2015 through an endowment from William R. Rhodes ’53 to train students to create actual businesses aimed at finding innovative solutions to social, environmental, economic, or educational problems. 

Presenting their progress on the app to faculty and students last week, the three students said their project combines their interest in addressing a public health concern with their lived experiences as teenagers. They cited a September 2019 Washington Post article on a New England Journal of Medicine study that found that more than 1 in 9 high school seniors report vaping nicotine on a near-daily basis. While there are many apps aimed at smoking cessation, the students found none dedicated specifically to teens and vaping. 

After conducting research and talking with professionals in the fields of addiction and health and wellness — including at the Center on Addiction in New York City and medical professionals at college health centers — students created a website and began the initial phase of creating the app. They plan to conduct user testing and gather feedback on the app in early spring, with a goal of getting the app on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Hargrave said, “Working on the app has been rewarding because it combines my interest in programming and software development with my desire to give back and make a positive impact.”

Cameron said their app “puts the power of quitting back in teenagers hands.” It provides quit plans geared toward teens, positive reinforcement, news about the dangers of vaping for adolescents, and, perhaps most important, creates a community hub for users of the app to connect with other teens who want to quit vaping.

Jara said, “Vaping often begins a social thing. You’re at a party or get-together and everyone’s doing it. If we’re trying to help teens overcome this, it means removing them from a certain community, which can be scary. With this app, we are replacing that with another community and encouraging teens to help each other.”