MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Students at a west metro high school are taking an interactive and straight-forward approach at tackling the vaping epidemic.
The initiative is called “They Lied, We Know.” It calls out the tobacco industry for not sharing the dangers of vaping to youth. The project is funded by Cambria.
But instead of having doctors or medical professionals at the colorful booth commons area at Minnetonka High School, it’s students leading the way.
Of all the conversations happening when the day ended at MHS, the vaping topic in particular is one a certain group of students hope will be the most memorable.
“I kind of stepped [a few students] aside and I was like, ‘This is kind of serious, you know, don’t joke about it, because it’s a pressing issue that we need to address,’” said junior Ally Gammill.
She was one of more than half a dozen students leading the campaign at the school.
“To have the advocacy spread student to student, as a parent, is critical to me,” said Sarah Lien, who has three children that attend MHS. She also works for Cambria
The approach of having students, many who are personable and unabashed to talk to classmates they might not know, dispense the information about the medical concerns connected to vaping is an important aspect of their mission.
“If it comes from a person who like knows you, who’s seen you doing it and is a peer and at the same level and can sympathize with what they’re going through, I think it should hit home,” said senior Andrew Linden. “I hope it would hit home because I don’t want anyone to die from this.”
As of October 15, the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 1,479 people nationwide have lung injuries associated with vaping, while 33 people have died. Most of the patients admitted to vaping THC products bought illegally, which the CDC said is playing a major role in the outbreak.
“When people first started vaping, all they knew about it was that it was better than cigarettes, and so they didn’t really know the harmful effects,” said senior Austin Roberts.
He handed out brochures highlighting the deadly and harmful statistic connected to vaping, as music played in the background to give the display a fun vibe. Nearby, students lounged on colorful bean bag chairs, encouraged to use the hashtag #EscapeTheVape to promote the initiative.
This week, Gov. Tim Walz is on a listening tour at Minnesota high schools. Recently at Hopkins High School, students told him more must be done to help teenagers break the addiction, and that bright-colored posters aren’t doing the job. Students at MHS hope their initiative will send a message that sticks.
“With a big setup like this, and the T-shirts and the candy and the stickers, it’s really putting, you know, ‘Escape the Vape’ everywhere, which I think is really effective,” said Gammill.