Heart Association to discuss local vaping ‘epidemic’

YOUNGSTOWN — The American Heart Association in the tri-county area will bring local volunteer leaders and high school students together to discuss the epidemic of e-cigarette use, or vaping, among youth and start taking steps to turn the tide locally.

The “E-cigarettes and Youth – Addressing an Epidemic” forum will be 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at VEC, 979 Tibbetts Wick Road, Girard.

“E-cigarette use by youth is an epidemic in this country and our community, and it requires swift action,” said Tracy Behnke, executive director of the American Heart Association in Youngstown. “The opportunity to connect with local students who are facing the pressures of this epidemic is both insightful and invaluable as we determine the best next steps we can take as leaders for health in our community.”

Local high school students will share what they experience daily in school and their social circles, followed by discussion on the epidemic, including an up-close look at the products available and how they are marketed to kids. The meeting will conclude with a conversation on the next steps the community can take to make an immediate impact.

Panelists are Kevin Spicher, superintendent, Howland Local Schools; Denise Holloway, TSAC / guidance counselor / nurses coordinator, Trumbull County Educational Service Center; and four high school students.

The latest data shows that more than one in four high school students are using e-cigarettes compared to approximately one in 10 just two years ago. More than 5 million high school students are now using e-cigarettes, according to the heart association.

This community dialogue is part of a larger effort driven by the AHA to begin conversations about e-cigarette use among youth. The association is leading community dialogue sessions across the country to bring students, parents, legislators, educators, community members and health organizations together to shed light on this issue and make a local plan to fight this rapidly growing epidemic.

The organization has announced a three-pronged initiative, which will urgently address the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. It includes:

∫ A new $20 million research investment, called the End the Lies Youth Vaping and Nicotine Research Initiative, which will focus urgently on the impact of vaping and nicotine use on youth, funding two or three scientists who will work intensely over the next two years to address the fact that there is no knowledge about the long-term health effects in youth;

∫ An aggressive, nationwide youth, school and community engagement and awareness campaign, dubbed #QuitLying, (QuitLying.org) designed to hold e-cigarette companies publicly accountable for their lies; and

∫ An impactful, multi-year fund dedicated to public policy change at all levels of government to prevent youth vaping and nicotine addiction, with foundational support from Kaiser Permanente.



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