A local program is working to spread a message to prevent children from entering the vaping world at such a young age.
By Pheben Kassahun | February 21st, 2017
The message is “Escape The Vape” and that is exactly what the program is called.
Tiffany Jenson is the founder of Escape The Vape.
“We discovered that vaping had started in the early 2000s and was largely off of people’s radar and as they found out about it, it looked like a safe alternative to smoking. “As people started to get to know the behavior, they started to realize, ‘No, there’s a lot going on here,'” Jenson said.
In Idaho, the percentage of youth in grades 9–12 who currently smoke cigarettes was 14.3% in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jenson used this as fuel to start educating eastern Idaho’s youth.
The program, which was created in July 2016 is now taking off.
Jenson, who is also a social work and sociology professor at BYU-Idaho started the program after working with kids in Madison County. Her target is children between the ages of 12 and 18.
“I worked really closely with Madison County Juvenile Probation and in Madison County, we were getting kids that were exclusively vaping and we really started to figure out what this was about,” Jenson said.
At that point, Jenson started to get interested in this new fad of water vapor and nicotine. She is trying to help kids understand vaping has nicotine in it and to no be fooled by the attractive colors companies are using to sell the product.
Fast-forward to now and the program just received a $53,000 grant from the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. It is now able to use the money to showcase presentations at schools and make public awareness campaigns.
The program also has teens helping bring awareness so that it can be better addressed through peers.
Carl Arter has been a youth team leader since August 2016. He decided to be apart of the program after he did his research. He did this after a few of his friends tried to persuade him into to trying vaporizers but he prevailed.
“It was kind of interesting they were all trying to convince me that it was all water vapor. There’s nothing wrong with it and it kind of looked to me that it was the same way as smoking,” Carl Arter said, “What we do know it that what you’re vaping is not just water vapor. There are dangerous chemicals in there, it can damage your lungs.”
His friends began to show him more respect, he said.
Carl Arter’s mother, Mellissa Arter, was asked to join the program by Scott Martin, who is also the program manager. After she became involved, Mellissa asked Carl to be apart of it.
Mellissa Arter, is the program manager of Escape The Vape. She hopes that a year from now, that the perception of vaping has changed.
“When we survey kids, we would like to see more knowledge of the dangers of it and a perception that it isn’t as healthy as they have been thinking that it is,” Mellissa Arter said.
It is too soon to tell just how effective the program is but Arter explains she has seen changes in some of the students her group has talked to.
“We have noticed as we’ve been talking to them, they seem to fall in line with what the research is showing us. They’re very surprised when we give them the information. Thatv, you know, aping is addictive and that it has these harmful chemicals,” she said.
Zachary Pace works at a vaping store and said he has been vaping for about 1 to 2 years. He said vaping is a wonderful thing but that it should be strictly for adults.
“It’s a great thing for a responsible adult. Children however, definitely should not be vaping, and vaping should not target children in any way. I mean, it’s just like any other adult product out there: alcohol, firearms.”
Founder, Tiffany Jenson said the program plans to continue meeting with all of the counties in District 7, which include Bonneville, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton.
She explained the first survey the program had conducted targeted ages 12 to 18 within two different events. It was to see how many of them vaped or have tried vaping. About 300-600 kids took the survey. Madison and Fremont County had the most kids who vaped, with 17 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Escape The Vape’s unofficial website can be found here.