Summit County releases youth vaping prevention toolkit
Summit County officials hope a new toolkit will give local parents the guidance they need to talk to their children about vaping.
On Wednesday, March 9, the county released its new website titled “Youth Vaping: A Parent’s Toolkit,” which people can access by visiting VapingSucks.org/parents. It’s the latest in a string of local initiatives to prevent vaping across the county since voters passed a tax on all nicotine products in 2019.
The toolkit provides parents with all the information they need about vaping. It has pictures of vapes concealed in sharpies, apple watches and hoodie strings in addition to conversation guides for parents looking to talk about vaping with their children.
“We really wanted to provide parents with a toolkit that not only has facts and education about vaping but also resources on how to have those authentic relationships and hard conversations with youth,” said Becky Peltier, health promotion and prevention specialist for Summit County Youth and Family.
In 2019, a Healthy Kids Colorado Survey of 304 Summit High School students showed that 61.4% of students think it would be “sort of or very easy to get e-cigarettes.” It also reported that 26.4% of students used a cigarette in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. Peltier said the county is still awaiting 2021 data.
The data has been illuminating for local government and school officials who are dedicated to preserving youths’ health. Vaping and e-cigarettes are commonly misconstrued as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, but that’s not the case, said Elizabeth Edgar, physical health coordinator for Summit School District. In reality, e-cigarettes are addictive, can delay brain development and can do major damage to a person’s lungs.
“Anytime you start looking at substance use, the impacts to the brain and to the body are just greater because our kids’ bodies are still developing,” Edgar said. “We want them to all reach their full potential, so we don’t want them to be doing anything that’s going to impede their growth or impact that development.”
The toolkit builds upon previous vaping prevention campaign work the county had done in partnership with Effct.org, a Denver-based digital marketing firm. Last year, the county created a series of advertisements featuring young locals who had used vapes in the past. Those advertisements gained over 3 million impressions across social media platforms.
Peltier said the county is looking to create more vaping prevention materials focused on adults, which will include a similar campaign featuring interviews with Summit County adults who have quit vaping. The county is awaiting results on a survey from December asking adults about substance use, she said.
“Youth see adults, learn from adults and look up to adults, so if we can establish healthy habits within adults, then hopefully that will trickle down to youth, as well,” Peltier said.
For Summit County Commissioner Josh Blanchard, the toolkit is a way to give parents and community members resources without attaching shame to the issue.
Blanchard said he’s excited to be able to focus more attention on health issues like substance use now that COVID-19 cases have gone down to manageable levels.
“It feels as if we as a community can start focusing on other health issues, whether it be e-cigarettes and vaping, whether it be other public health issues, whether it be mental health issues, behavioral health issues,” Blanchard said. “That’s where we really need to shift and feel like we can.”
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