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Lawrence High School students learn about dangers of e-cigarettes, drugs

Lawrence High School students recently engaged in trivia games and demonstrations that were designed to inform them about the dangers of vaping, e-cigarettes and marijuana.

On March 20, students took part in those activities at the high school during Kick Butts Day, which is an annual day of youth activism against the dangers of vaping, electronic cigarettes, tobacco and marijuana, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

“Mainly we have seen a rise in young adults using e-cigarettes and e-products,” said Malissa Arnold, a drug free communities program coordinator for the Mercer Council On Alcoholism. “We have noticed as well that young people who vape are using marijuana. We are worried about the choices they are making now that have lifelong addictions.”

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device, according to the Center for Addiction.

The presentations, demonstrations and games did not just happen on Kick Butts Day, but throughout the school week of March 20. The events were designed to have students understand the consequences of engaging in activities such as vaping, according to school administrators.

“There is a misconception out there that with the term vaping, that vapor is just water,” Arnold said. “The latest statistic shows 65 percent of young adults think it is just water flavor, some of them did not realize nicotine was in e-cigarettes. Here we have a generation that is one of the most outspoken on environmental change and gun control laws, but when it comes to public health like this they do not want to believe it is an issue.”

She said the presentations and games showed the students the health and cost ramifications of vaping, e-cigarettes, tobacco and marijuana use.

Several students who are members of Community in Action, a club at the high school which warns students against participating in dangerous behaviors, informed their classmates about these issues during the school week.

Seniors Maura Freeland and Katie Minera helped their peers understand the consequences of vaping, tobacco and marijuana use.

“I joined (Community in Action) when I was a sophomore. It is really important to have events like this because even if it is just a flier you bring home about how dangerous smoking is, that is something and it sticks with you,” Maura said.

Katie said she started in the club as a freshman and it has allowed her to educate her peers about the dangers of drugs.

“By doing activities that are fun and interactive, we are able to get the message across. Giving people facts along with these hands-on games, I think this is a great way to educate our fellow students on the issues,” Katie said.

Both young women said it is important that they speak to their fellow students because of how harmful the products and actions are from vaping, and smoking tobacco and marijuana.

Ann DeGennero, a student assistance counselor at Lawrence High School, organized the events with Arnold.

“To me, week-long and daily events like this should be a priority in any school. What we are seeing is an influx of students experimenting with these substances who now think it is OK to do it in school,” DeGennero said.

She said Juul electronic cigarettes are an issue not only at the high school, but in the school district.

“They are so accessible. You cannot smell it or detect it. Students are smoking these in places you would not think of and now they are doing it in school. That is what really concerns me,” DeGennero said.

She said she believes the events that were held during the week made an impact on students.

“I had a student come up to me yesterday who said that after my presentation, he asked himself whether he was addicted to these Juul (e-cigarettes). He told me he made a decision to stop,” DeGennero said.

DeGennero organized the events to reach all 1,200 students in the high school by having presentations, games and demonstrations throughout the week, and not just on Kick Butts Day, according to school administrators.

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