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Marijuana and Nicotine Vaping Prevention Videogame Coming to Three CT Middle Schools

November 20, 2023
by Alexa Tomassi

It results from a partnership between Yale researchers and the state's Department of Public Health

A top public health concern among today’s adolescents is the widespread use of nicotine and marijuana vaping devices. Now, two researchers at Yale School of Medicine, Kimberly Hieftje, PhD, and Deepa Camenga, MD, MHS, are teaming up with the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) to bring a classroom-based virtual reality (VR) nicotine and marijuana vaping prevention videogame to students in three Connecticut middle schools.

"Young people are naturally attracted to cutting-edge technologies, including virtual reality. Our VR game provides students with an immersive platform to practice critical skills such as resisting peer pressure, recognizing and exercising healthy coping strategies, and managing emotions during stressful moments – all skills that can help reduce the likelihood that students will vape nicotine or marijuana," said Dr. Kimberly Hieftje, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and co-director of XR Pediatrics and the Yale Center for Immersive Technologies in Pediatrics.

Three schools in southern Connecticut will receive evidence-based programming from XR Pediatrics (XRPeds) at no cost over the next year. “Several years ago, teens were mostly vaping nicotine. Now, more and more teens are also vaping cannabis and they are vaping both during school and outside of school,” said Dr. Deepa Camenga, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics and Public Health. “Our team partnered with local middle schools and teens to develop a videogame that empowers middle school students to make healthy choices in environments where nicotine and cannabis vapes are easily accessible.”

XRPeds, within the Yale Center for Immersive Technologies in Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, focuses on the use of extended reality (XR; virtual, augmented, and mixed reality) and game technology in applications, interventions, and research with the goal of improving lives and reducing disparities among youth and their families. Their mission is to provide effective and safe XR applications for youth, with a particular focus on those at risk for experiencing health disparities associated with race/ethnicity, age, gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, and disability.

The project website can be found here.

Submitted by Alexa Tomassi on November 17, 2023