Students from John S. Burke Catholic High School’s Reality Check Club seized an opportunity to educate their peers on the manipulative way the tobacco industry is using flavors to hook another generation on products containing nicotine.
Last week marked the 43rd annual Great American Smoke Out sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which is observed on the third Thursday of November. This year, due to the startling youth epidemic of vaping as declared by the Surgeon General, it was dubbed "The Great American Vape Out."
During their lunch periods, club members encouraged students to sign a pledge not to use any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes almost always contain nicotine, the same addictive chemical found in cigarettes, which makes using these products difficult to quit,” said Carissa Jachcinski, the Reality Check manager for POW’R Against Tobacco, a program of the American Lung Association. “We know that the adolescent brain isn’t fully developed until 25 and use of these substances can affect mood, impulse control and attention to learning.”
'Guinea pigs of the tobacco industry'
The students shared their concerns about youth vaping with New York State Senator Jen Metzger (SD-42) and a representative from the office of New York State Senator James Skoufis (SD-39), who visited the school.
“It’s important to have representatives like Senator Metzger come to events like this to get our voices heard,” said Burke Catholic junior Alyssa Smith. “People in power are more likely to listen to us because we’re the next generation. We want our peers to learn that juuling and smoking affects their bodies more than they think it does. A lot of the long-term effects of vaping are unknown and teenagers don’t realize they’re the guinea pigs of the tobacco industry.”
Metzger said among the resources available for teens and young adults who wants to quit is the text to quit program from the Truth Initiative. To enroll, text the words “DitchJuul” to 8809.
“It is outrageous that the vaping industry is marketing these hazardous products to our youth, and I am proud to join with Burke Catholic High School students in raising awareness about the health risks of vaping, especially among our young people,” said Metzger. “Almost 12 percent of high schoolers have tried vaping, and awareness campaigns like these are critical to reducing usage. While the health effects of vaping are still being investigated, studies indicate that it can contribute to long-term addiction in young adults, and even play a role in cardiovascular disease, DNA damage and lung damage.”
Reality Check is a teen-led, adult-run program that seeks to prevent and decrease tobacco use among young people throughout New York State. For more information about Reality Check, visit realitycheckofny.org.