TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Health Department is partnering with local school officials and students to extinguish the widespread use of e-cigarettes among teenagers.
During a press conference Wednesday, the health department announced the "Real Deal on Vaping" campaign, a new partnership to put an end to the rampant use of vapes and e-cigarettes.
"These (holding up an e-cigarette) singlehandedly are destroying the youth of our future," Dennis Williams, Superintendent of Schools in Pima County, told a packed room at the Pima County Health Department. "30 years ago we had an epidemic with tobacco and cigarettes, only to find out that today we are in the same exact epidemic and crisis."
A survey done in 2018 revealed 47 percent of Pima County high school seniors have tried e-cigarettes or vaping.
“It’s very easy to just puff on it and forget about it,” said Adriana Noriega, a Cholla High School senior who took to the podium to speak on the dangers of liquid nicotine use at the kickoff campaign event. She says she sees and smells e-cigarettes being used everyday in school, and her peers know it is easy to hide a small vape from teachers and supervisors. “People don’t think about it as much as you would if you were smoking a cigar.”
“I had family members who smoked and I actually got asthma from it,” said Danielle Crain, a senior at Empire High School and a member of their Student Wellness and Advocacy Team (SWAT). “I can tell someone to stop doing something and they aren’t going to listen, but if I can tell someone what they are putting in their body, they are going to listen.”
The county hopes by bringing together health officials, school administrators, and students, they can bridge the gap between what teens perceptions of vaping are, and the very real health effects on their bodies.
“We I.D anyone who looks under 35,” said David Lundberg, who works at Head West Smoke Shop on Campbell. The shop is doing their part to get out in front of the illegal, underage use of e-cigarettes. “When groups of kids come in and only one of them has their I.D, I still can’t serve any of them.”
However, the jury is still out for him on whether the campaign will bring an end to high school students using e-cigarettes.
“Six years ago when vaping first started people were saying its super lame and everyone wanted to still smoke cigarettes,” said Lundberg. “But now it, (vaping) is this huge thing that everyone is all about. People are going to do what they want to do.”
For more information on the anti-vaping campaign click here (http://www.webcms.pima.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=474763)