Vermont Youth Speak Out at the Capitol Against the Dangers of Flavored Tobacco and E-Cigarettes

News Release

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2019

Media Contact:
Ben Truman
Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281

 

Vermont Youth Speak Out at the Capitol Against the Dangers of Flavored Tobacco and E-Cigarettes

MONTPELIER – Middle and High School members of Our Voices Xposed (OVX) and Vermont Youth Against Tobacco (VKAT) – Vermont’s youth-led movements to reduce youth smoking and vaping rates – marched to the Vermont Statehouse to speak out against the dangers to youth of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco. 

E-cigarettes, such as JUUL, are electronic vaping devices that typically deliver nicotine through aerosol. JUUL is one of the most popular e-cigarette products with teens because it combines sweet flavors at a low price. There are many styles, including one that looks like a USB flash drive and is easy to hide from parents and teachers. Its “pods” of liquid nicotine are cheaper than a pack of cigarettes – while containing the same amount of nicotine.

Nearly 50 students from across Vermont attended the youth event, where they were greeted by applause during recognition by the House of Representatives. Following a rally on the steps of the Statehouse, the students met with legislators and also spoke with Governor Phil Scott. The event is an initiative of OVX, VKAT and the CounterBalance campaign, which are working together to amplify the message about the dangers of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products.

Joseph Vineyard, a 17-year-old student from St. Johnsbury Academy, said, “The worst thing we can do is to not do anything.” Vineyard explained that he and his fellow students came to Montpelier and work in their schools to help peers and educators understand the truth about flavored products. “Our voices have to be heard,” said Vineyard. “E-cigarettes are not only addictive, but they can lead to diseases, remap our brains and hurt our relationships.”

“When tobacco products and e-cigarettes are sold in flavors like cotton candy, bubble gum and peanut butter cup, they attract young people because they seem less dangerous,” said Rhonda Williams, chronic disease prevention chief with the Vermont Department of Health. “Of particular concern is that evidence is mounting that these products are attracting young people who hadn’t before smoked conventional cigarettes.”

Williams said that the nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes is addictive, contains toxic materials like formaldehyde and arsenic, and can affect brain development – especially in young people. “The science is showing that introducing nicotine to young brains can permanently change the way the brain develops and make it harder to quit,” said Williams. “One of my concerns is that when an e-cigarette isn’t available, the next easiest way for kids to get that nicotine fix is to light up, and now you have a new smoker.” 

National and local data show that 85 percent of U.S. e-cigarette users ages 12 to 17 use flavored devices, and 13 percent of Vermont youth e-cigarette users said the primary reason they use them is because they are available in many flavors. There are currently more than 7,000 e-cigarette flavors.

The OVX and VKAT students also hosted an educational session to speak directly to legislators about the CounterBalance campaign and their concerns about both flavored tobacco and e-cigarette use by Vermont’s kids and teens.

“This is a very important issue because it affects me, my friends, my classmates and everyone our age,” said Emily Dugan from Fair Haven Union High School. “We will continue to speak out to protect our generation from the harms of these products until there are no more kids using them.”

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Frequency of Electronic Vapor Product Use and Other Risk Behaviors Among High School Students – 2017 YRBS: http://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/HSVR_Tobacco_DB_%20YouthEvapor_2018.pdf

About CounterBalance:
CounterBalance, a campaign from the Vermont Department of Health, launched in 2014 with one overarching goal: to counter the tobacco industry’s influence in the retail environment and its impact on Vermont’s youth. For more information about the CounterBalance campaign, visit http://CounterBalanceVT.com.

About Our Voices Exposed (OVX) and Vermont Kids Against Tobacco (VKAT):
The OVX and VKAT groups engage and empower youth ages 10 to 18. Through youth leadership opportunities, they educate students, community members and decision makers on the tactics used by the tobacco industry, encourage healthy choices among peers and work to reduce tobacco use and change social norms. OVX and VKAT also work with the Vermont Department of Health on media and counter-tobacco marketing campaigns. For more information about OVX and VKAT, visit healthvermont.gov.