LIHUE — About 25 Kauai High students gathered at the Lihue Airport intersection on Friday, waving signs and making noise to raise awareness about vaping.
They were part of groups of students islandwide that held demonstrations in their respective towns. Students held signs touting phrases like “Ditch the Vape” and “More A’s Less O’s” — the “O” in the last phrase refers to smoke rings and tricks people like to do with e-cigarette vapor.
“We know it’s not going to stop overnight, and that it’s a big deal,” said Isabel Gampon, who has been co-leading the Kauai High group that’s working to educate peers on the dangers of e-cigarette use, commonly known as vaping.
She continued: “We’re here to generate awareness, to put it out there for adults to know about and understand.”
It’s part of several, month-long events hosted by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii.
“I think that people think it’s safer than smoking and they’re following trends,” said Hailey Silva, a student at Kauai High.
Classmate Holly Taguma pointed out health complications that are linked to vaping, like popcorn lung and nicotine addiction.
“You’re inhaling chemicals that deteriorate your lungs,” Taguma said.
Studies are ongoing on the health effects of smoking electronic cigarettes. Some allege it’s a safe way to help quit smoking conventional cigarettes, while others say vaping is just as addictive. Both contain nicotine.
The Centers for Disease Control say young people who start using e-cigarettes may be more likely to pick up traditional smokes in the future.
Vape pen designs have become increasingly diverse, with some of them — like the JUUL brand — shaped like a USB or flash drive.
“They (students) bring them out in class, and because it looks like a USB, teachers don’t know,” said Bryden Ka‘auwai, who has been co-leading the Kauai High awareness group with Gampon.
Taguma pointed out the scents of many of the vape pens are fairly easy to pass off and explain away.
“People smell it and they just say it’s their body spray,” she said.
The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii supports state House Bill 276, which would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Monday kicks off “No Vape Week” at Kapaa High School. A mural commemorating the week will be unveiled at the school on Feb. 19, to include a mayoral proclamation and ceremony.
Throughout the month there will also be vape education programs in schools.
An Ohana Fun Day &Prevention Awareness gathering, sponsored by Hale ‘Opio Kauai, is set at Lydgate Park on March 19.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.