Smoking has been a stubborn part of our society for thousands of years. Research after research concludes that smoking isn’t particularly good for your own health, and also affects those around you. The World Health Organization even claims that “The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 7 million people a year.”

The recent rise of e-cigarettes and vaping products among young people brings new concerns along the way. Teenagers are unaware of the risks and damages that come with it, and inhale the nicotine that (could potentially) make them nicotine addicts. These first step devices make them familiar with inhaling the stimulants, thus preparing them for smoking cigarettes for the long haul. As reported on Cancer.org, it turns out that nearly 9 out of 10 adult smokers had their first cigarette before they were 18 years old. Bottom line: once you start smoking, it’s a bad habit to kick.

To prevent this trend from evolving any further, the Yale Center (for Health & Learning Games) and Facebook have joined forces in order to attempt a decrease at teenagers who start vaping. They are working on a VR video game named “SmokeSCREEN VR”, where teens and young adolescents explore the consequences of risky behavior in a realistic simulation. The game also educates in terms of vulnerability, influenceability and social pressure. The pilot game is currently in the works and will investigate if a virtual environment will influence their behavior towards the subject. If successful, more comparable simulations with topics like sexual, alcohol and drug use behavior will be developed.

It’s an ambitious project that could potentially raise the bar of virtual education environments, yet we have so many questions. Could it really impact the behavior of teenagers and young adolescents? What will the virtual environment look like? And how will Facebook contribute exactly? We remain curious upon its actual release. To be continued…

Header photo by Cameron Kirby.
In post picture by Play4REAL lab.