2022 Customer Awards: Truth Initiative - Engagement for Good

2022 Customer Awards: Truth Initiative - Engagement for Good

Truth InitiatitiveTruth Initiatitive
Company: Truth Initiative

Company background: Truth Initiative is America's largest nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use and nicotine addiction a thing of the past. Quitting nicotine isn't easy, but it can be done with the right support. We know because we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people stop using tobacco through proven-effective treatments and innovative, interactive tools and a powerful online support community.

Contact: Megan Jacobs, MPH

Title: Managing Director, Product

Related URLs:

https://excommunity.becomeanex.org/ https://www.thetruth.com/depressionstick https://www.thetruth.com/breathofstressair https://www.wsj.com/articles/antivaping-campaign-highlights-mental-health-by-pitching-depression-sti... https://mashable.com/ad/article/vaping-nicotine-myth-stress-relief

Kudos Category: Engagement for Good

1. Tell us how you are leveraging Khoros technology to drive a positive social outcome in your community (think: inclusive campaigns, filtering out hate speech, driving donations, etc.).
Tobacco use is the #1 cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. Vaping has spawned a generation of new tobacco users, many of whom will go on to become smokers. The EX Community on Khoros is providing unrivaled peer support to young people to help them break free from the deadly grip of nicotine addiction before they become lifelong tobacco users. Our research has shown that engaging in our Khoros-powered EX Community drives quitting success. 
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2. What are some initiatives, causes, cultural moments, or social justice movements that you’ve been able to support or be involved in using the Khoros platform?
Nicotine use is exacerbating a surging mental health crisis among young people in America. The truth campaign, the leading national education campaign run by Truth Initiative for over 20 years, now addresses these twin epidemics: mental health and nicotine addiction. For the millions of young adults interested in quitting vaping, the EX Community is ready for them.
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3. What were the results? Tell us how this helped your team uphold brand values, drive brand trust with your audience, reach your goals, increase cost savings, increase efficiency, etc. Please include metrics and examples if possible.
Every person that we can help to quit tobacco and live free from nicotine addiction is literally a life saved. Our impact is in the tens of thousands, but we celebrate each and every success story. Over a 6 month period between Nov 2021 and May 2022, 4268 tobacco users registered on EX after being referred by This is Quitting. Nearly one in five joined the EX Community, benefitting from support that our research has shown doubles the odds of quitting.
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Extended Response 1:

We are leveraging Khoros technology to free people of all ages from what is perhaps the most tenacious and demoralizing addiction: tobacco addiction. For decades, research has shown the power of social support in helping people break free from tobacco. And yet, family, friends, coworkers, neighbors are often the least effective in delivering that support. An anonymous, 24/7 online community that brings together people from all walks of life and levels the playing field across age, income, education, disability status, mental health, etc. has proven to be a powerful tool in tackling tobacco addiction. Our Khoros-powered community on BecomeAnEX.org (‘EX’) is one-of-a-kind in its life saving impact on tobacco users of all ages. It is literally saving lives.

Many people do not realize that tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. It contributes to the premature deaths of nearly 500,000 Americans every year. That’s the scale of COVID-19 mortality, but it happens year after year, decade after decade. Living as a smoker in particular is often filled with suffering – daily struggles to climb stairs or take short walks, fitful sleep, seizing chest pains and fits of coughing. And smoking-related deaths are tortuous: gasping for air when emphysema/COPD cripples the lungs; battling clever and debilitating cancers that move throughout the body, always one step ahead of the latest treatment; the crushing chest pain that comes with repeated heart attacks. 

For nearly 15 years, our EX Community has served hundreds of thousands of adult tobacco users, most of them focused on quitting smoking. Over the past year, however, we’ve seen more and more people coming to EX to quit vaping, the majority of whom are young adults. While smoking rates are at an all-time low, vaping has emerged as a new epidemic in the United States, with nearly one in five high school students and young adults reporting current e-cigarette use. Millions of young people - many of whom have never smoked a cigarette - are now vaping, putting a new generation at risk of nicotine addiction and future dangerous tobacco use.

Why does nicotine use among young people matter? Isn’t this just “the age of experimentation” anyway? Nicotine use in any form is unsafe and harmful to brain development, which occurs through the mid 20s. Young nicotine users are more likely to become addicted, have more difficulty quitting, and may be at higher risk for addiction to other substances in the future. And multiple research studies show that young e-cigarette users are much more likely to go on to smoke deadly cigarettes. Armed with a slick, concealable new product in the form of an e-cigarette, the tobacco industry has continued its decades old tactics of targeting young people and marginalized communities, including sexual and gender minorities and people of color. 

Our work at Truth Initiative is exclusively focused on ending the tobacco epidemic in the U.S. Founded over 20 years ago, Truth Initiative is America’s largest non-profit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past. The Innovations Center at Truth Initiative delivers scalable digital tobacco cessation programs to help the nearly 51 million Americans who use tobacco to break free from nicotine addiction. Our Khoros-powered EX Community is the longest-running and largest tobacco cessation community in the world. Each month, thousands of current and former tobacco users share candid advice and powerful motivation, supporting each other through the quitting journey and celebrating each day that members are free from tobacco addiction. 

This vibrant community offers users:

  • In-the-moment advice from a variety of perspectives; an average of 12 comments per post—often within 12 minutes of posting
  • Powerful, candid personal accounts of quit journeys
  • Empathy and encouragement in the face of relapse
  • Support for quitting all types of tobacco (smoking, vaping, dip/chew) as well as support for parents helping their child quit vaping
  • Medical expertise from our longstanding partners at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center

The Khoros platform is an ideal technology solution to support our mission and purpose. Between out-of-the-box features and custom elements, we have been able to support and nurture this vibrant community. The powerful Search function on the home page enables easy access to the specific content our users are searching for, many times in the throes of cravings or withdrawal when ready access to information and support is critical. We created custom tiles to engage members from their first visit. One of the most powerful elements is the Daily Pledge, a space where members commit publicly to another day without tobacco. Conversations is the space where most of our activity happens - new members reaching out for support, established members posting an SOS during a slip or relapse, the wisdom of Elders being passed along to those newer to the process of quitting. Groups connect people with a shared hobby or interest, further strengthening the ties that are initially created around quitting tobacco and extending them around the fun and meaningful pursuits that happen in smoke-free lives. The Khoros platform has allowed us to feature content from our partners in a Mayo Clinic Blog space, further solidifying the trust that users have in our Community. We’ve also made our Community available in Spanish this past year to expand our reach to Latino/a tobacco users. This next year we intend to reinvigorate Celebrations and Events, leveraging the Khoros platform to host Ask Me Anything sessions with our Mayo Clinic partners and various peer-led events.
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Extended Response 2:

Nicotine use can negatively affect mental health. It can amplify symptoms of anxiety and depression and increase stress. It’s the exact opposite of the message the industry has told for years linking tobacco use with pleasure, relaxation, and stress reduction. The disturbing irony is that during our nation’s youth mental health crisis, the thing millions of young people have turned to for relief is actually making their symptoms of depression and anxiety worse.

To counter tobacco industry targeting of young people and to stall the rapid rise in vaping rates, Truth Initiative’s truth campaign expanded its focus from raising awareness about nicotine addiction to providing solutions to overcome it. In January 2020, the campaign began promoting This is Quitting (TIQ), a quit vaping program created by Truth Initiative specifically for adolescent and young adult vapers ages 13-24. 

Since Fall 2021, the truth campaign has zeroed in on the important link between vaping and mental health and encouraged vapers to quit. The first two chapters in this iteration of the campaign, “It’s Messing With Our Heads,” are called Depression Stick and Breath of Stress Air. Each chapter serves to pull back the curtain on the impact vaping has on feelings of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as how the tobacco industry is perpetuating the myths of nicotine as a fix-it for these mental health challenges.

The truth campaign is a massive, nationwide, multimedia effort. Many ads and messages are carefully targeted on social media to young people in the target demographic. But “Depression Stick” and “Breath of Stress Air” also come to life on broad-reach, untargeted channels. These include approaches such as advertising during high-profile NFL games; a billboard in Times Square; a fake Depression Stick storefront on the Lower East Side in New York City; sponsored content on Buzzfeed and Mashable; and through a network of collaborations with influencers to organically spread campaign awareness on TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. This content touches millions of tobacco users outside the target age range – smokers and vapers alike – encouraging them to make quit attempts as well.

Because This is Quitting is designed to serve 13-24 year olds, adults 25+ are referred to BecomeAnEX.org (‘EX’) as a quit resource. On EX, vapers get access to a suite of dynamic web-based tools and information; companion email and text messaging to guide their quit efforts; and of course, the powerful Khoros-powered EX Community for unparalleled social support throughout the quitting journey. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, as young people have struggled with social isolation and a whirlwind of stressors, the EX Community has played a pivotal role in promoting self-care, both in terms of quitting vaping and also in supporting mental wellbeing. 
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Extended Response 3:

Between 11/17/2021 - 5/31/2022, we tracked referrals to EX from This is Quitting for adults age 25 and up. In that time, 4268 adult tobacco users registered on EX after a TIQ referral. Of those, nearly 20% joined the EX Community, 13% of whom responded to a discussion. 

Our research has shown that smokers who visited the EX Community were more than twice as likely to quit than their peers who didn’t. We have seen that this effect was strongest for those who actively posted and engaged with other members. But we’ve also seen that even lurking or just reading other posts increases the odds of quitting. Staying active in the EX Community for a longer period of time also helped users maintain abstinence. 

The unique and scalable impact of this community has to be considered in the context of other available resources. The most widely-available free resource are telephonic quitlines, run by state departments of health throughout the U.S. Support is limited to a handful of calls, typically scheduled around an individual’s quit date. Calls have to be scheduled when staff are available, rather than when support is most critically needed. Support from a single trained expert is also qualitatively different than support from hundreds of peers who have “been there” and “get it.” And, perhaps most importantly, communication preferences have changed, making actual phone calls less appealing than online support. There are also dozens (if not hundreds) of apps available, but none provide 24/7 support in the form of a thriving and vibrant online community. We are proud to be the leading quit tobacco community for over a decade and grateful to be able to provide the rich functionality of the Khoros platform to support our members.

More powerful than our words, however, are comments from EX Community members themselves:

  • “I am 25 and too young to have an addiction this strong. It does hurt my heart that I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to overcome it by myself…. Which led me to this site and group. I feel very comforted knowing I’m not alone and there are people out there don’t know me… yet want me to succeed in my goals.” - Samhenke3


  • “Thanks everyone.  I asked for two cigarettes today.  The dopamine hit doesn’t last long.  I don’t know why I did that, except that I wanted to celebrate my birthday.  There are better ways.  I got a better dopamine hit from baking my own birthday cake!  I’ll stay close to the site for support.  You are right - there is never such a thing as one hit.  I’ll get right back to my quit.  I went for a short walk afterwards and felt so much better.  I don’t know why I did that.  I’m better off without cigarettes/vapes.  Next time a crave comes, I’ll come to the site for support.  Thanks.” - jettagirl170


  • “Hey everyone! I just wanted to post that I am 6 days free from vaping nicotine and I am doing so good!...I couldn’t love it more! I have already started proving to myself that I CAN BECOME AN EX!! Thank you to the EX COMMUNITY for helping me along my journey!!!!” - MommaTetteh


  • “this site has been more helpful then (sic) I imagined! Reading others experiences, tips and tricks on how to fight a craving are literal life savers!” - MeFirst2022

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