UTHealth Houston-developed vaping prevention program now offered in New York City Public Schools

Steven Kelder, PhD, MPH, professor at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin, who created the CATCH My Breath program. (Photo by UTHealth Houston)
Steven Kelder, PhD, MPH, professor at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin, who created the CATCH My Breath program. (Photo by UTHealth Houston)

CATCH My Breath, an evidence-based vaping prevention program created by researchers from UTHealth Houston, is now being offered at New York City Public Schools, thanks to a partnership with CATCH Global Foundation and in collaboration with the New York Health Foundation and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Developed by researchers at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin, CATCH My Breath is the only nicotine vaping prevention program recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an effective school-level intervention and is proven to prevent the initiation of vaping among 6th and 7th grade students by up to 46%. The program, which is designed for students in grades 5-12, currently reaches more than 1.8 million youth in over 5,000 schools nationwide.

“JUUL lit the match to accelerate use of e-cigarettes and nicotine addiction by teens, and they have recently settled several large lawsuits with hundreds of school districts across the country,” said Steven Kelder, PhD, MPH, a professor at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in Austin who developed the CATCH My Breath program. “We are working with school districts to try to reverse nicotine use by teens. Aligned to national health education standards, the CATCH My Breath program provides free resources including lesson plans, scripted presentation slides, student self-paced modules, a parent toolkit with videos, and more.”

To address the nicotine vaping epidemic among youth across New York City, CATCH Global Foundation – a 501(c)3 public charity founded in 2014 in partnership with and with support from UTHealth Houston and MD Anderson Cancer Center – will provide free vaping prevention training, classroom resources, and parent resources to public school health educators serving elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as engage students in advocacy-centered service learning projects through CATCH My Breath.

“E-cigarette use is a huge issue among our youth, who are the targets of mass-marketing and misinformation campaigns run by the vaping industry,” said Duncan Van Dusen, founder and CEO of CATCH Global Foundation. “This important collaboration will help us reach students before they start using e-cigarettes, so they don’t fall prey to the negative mental and physical health impacts of nicotine addiction.”

E-cigarettes are particularly harmful for youth because they almost always contain nicotine, which can change the chemistry of the adolescent brain and may increase anxiety and worsen memory and concentration. Nicotine may also affect the way the teenage brain processes other drugs, like alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine. Youth who use them are also more likely to later try cigarettes.

Despite the harms of vaping, it continues to gain traction among youth due to predatory industry practices. In 2021, one in nine New York City high school students reported using e-cigarettes, and in 2018, one in 15 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes.

The goal of the CATCH My Breath NYC Initiative is to reduce the initiation of nicotine vaping by elementary, middle, and high school students by building the capacity of educators to deliver nicotine vaping prevention education to students and parents, and by empowering students to choose and advocate for a vape-free lifestyle.

The New York Health Foundation has committed $282,000 to support the initiative’s ability to reach up to 315 health educators and 30,000 students in up to 180 local schools over three years.

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