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Chew, E-Cigarette Use Down Among “Country” Teens

November 27, 2018


Date: Nov. 27, 2018


Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth

Contact: Richard Foster



VFHY Prevention Campaign Decreases Tobacco, E-Cigarette Use Among “Country” Teens


Newly published research study highlights campaign’s success


RICHMOND – A prevention campaign led by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) successfully decreased youth use of chewing tobacco and dip tobacco products by more than 21 percent among the state’s “country” or rural teen subculture over a two-year period, according to a new paper published this month in Health Education and Behavior. Additionally, VFHY’s “Down and Dirty” youth tobacco-use prevention campaign helped decreased country teens’ use of all tobacco products and e-cigarettes by almost 30 percent.  

“Our approach allows us to laser-focus our efforts and deliver authentic prevention messaging to the specific groups of youth who are more at-risk to engage in unhealthy behaviors like tobacco use,” says VFHY Director of Marketing Daniel Saggese, one of the paper’s co-authors. “The success of this campaign demonstrates that we are able to deliver our messaging to youth in a highly effective and meaningful manner that causes positive behavior change.”

The Virginia Foundation for a Healthy Youth (VFHY) and its contractor, Rescue Agency, implemented the innovative prevention campaign by using a strategy called “social branding” that focuses on the unique values and interests of at-risk teen subgroups, rather than attempting to deliver the same message to all teens at once. In this case, the campaign was designed to appeal to teens who identify with a country lifestyle, due to their disproportionately high use of chewing tobacco in Virginia. A “country” or rural lifestyle is characterized in the study by shared cultural interests such as a love for outdoor activities and country music as well as placing a high value on the importance of family.

Chewing tobacco use by Virginia high school students in the country subculture decreased by 21.6 percent, dropping from 12.5 percent in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2017, according to results from the latest Virginia Youth Survey, a survey of public high school and middle school students jointly conducted every two years by the Virginia Department of Health and VFHY. Overall tobacco and e-cigarette use in Virginia’s country teen subculture decreased by 29.7 percent, dropping from 24.5 percent in 2015 to 17.2 percent in 2017.

TV ads, social media, events and digital efforts used in the Down and Dirty campaign were specifically designed to motivate country teens by incorporating country youth subculture values and interests in its messaging. One ad features a teen talking about how the smell of tobacco gets in the way of his ability to hunt, while another states that while country teens can fix nearly anything, they can’t fix tooth loss caused by tobacco use.

This is not VFHY’s first campaign to achieve published results. Research about a separate Social Branding campaign, called Syke, which reduced cigarette smoking among Virginia’s alternative teen subculture, was published in the book Contemporary Issues in Social Marketing in 2014. 

About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY):

Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) coordinates statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use, childhood obesity and substance use. For more information about the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, please visit our website at