Over the past twenty years cigarette use has dropped sharply among young adults ages 18 to 29—from 35 percent to around 12 percent (Gallup). While this is good news, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Combustible tobacco, like cigarettes, is not as frequently used by young adults—but rates of vaping have increased significantly among this population. At UW-Madison, almost 1 in 3 undergraduate students and 1 in 7 graduate and professional students have used tobacco or nicotine delivery products at least once—with most of this use being vaping or oral nicotine (NCHA Survey 2021).
This month, as part of No Nicotine November, UHS invites students to reflect on their relationship with nicotine and explore resources on and off campus that can help them quit.
What is No Nicotine November?
No Nicotine November is an opportunity to take the first step toward healthier habits. The theme of this month is “A no to nicotine is a yes to yourself,” which encourages students to consider what they may gain in both the short and long term if they discontinue nicotine use, including better sleep, less anxiety, more focus—and much more.
Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant substance, even with only occasional use. While a student may think that they are not dependent on nicotine, often they find it difficult to stop when they want to. Many students believe that vaping and other non-combustible nicotine products are less dangerous than smoking. In reality, nicotine significantly changes a person’s brain chemistry, which can affect a person’s cognition and mental health. These effects are especially profound in young people whose brains are still developing.
“Most students on campus who vape or use tobacco do not consider themselves regular users,” says Dr. Jenny Damask, assistant director for high-risk drinking prevention at University Health Services. Dr. Damask notes that students often justify their use by saying that they do not use nicotine products every day and only smoke or vape at parties or with friends. “The concept of ‘quitting’ doesn’t feel the same to them—but that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from stopping use of nicotine or tobacco products.”
No Nicotine November encourages students to take this month off from nicotine use while reflecting on when they use nicotine and why—as well as what they can gain by stopping. November is also a timely month for quitting. “I hear from a lot of students that they want to quit using nicotine products in advance of seeing family and friends during breaks away from campus—so Thanksgiving can provide a natural quit date for them,” says Dr. Damask. “Having a specific date in mind to work toward is a really successful motivator.”
Events this November
Take a chance to participate in No Nicotine November with these events on campus:
- Bascom Hill Display – November 16
Look out for a display on Bascom Hill on Thursday, November 16—a reminder of everything you are saying yes to when you stop using nicotine.
- Quit kit distribution – throughout November
Quit kits will be provided at tabling events at campus libraries, flu shot clinics, and Rec Well facilities throughout the month of November. These kits include non-medication quit aids, like flavored toothpicks, gum, and fidget toys, as well as information on resources on and off campus that can help you reduce or stop your nicotine use. Keep an eye on UHS’s Instagram page for updates.
Quitting support through UHS
UHS offers no-cost, confidential individual counseling for students who would like to assess their current use and discuss personal strategies for quitting nicotine, tobacco, and vape products. Quitting looks different for everyone, and UHS providers can help you make a plan that works for you. This can involve behavioral strategies, such as counseling, as well as nicotine replacement products (patches, lozenges, gum), and/or medication assistance.
Students can get started by calling UHS at 608-265-5600 to schedule an appointment.
Other quitting resources
Support for stopping nicotine use is also available by phone or text:
- Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line: UW Madison’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (CTRI) provides this free service to help people quit smoking, vaping, or other tobacco use. Call 800-QUIT-NOW.
- This is Quitting Text Line: This free and anonymous text messaging program from Truth Initiative is designed to help young people quit vaping. Text DITCHVAPE to 88709.
For additional information about resources available on and off campus, visit UHS’s Quitting Nicotine webpage.